Most counties not actively enforcing coronavirus reopening requirements

Orlando police, Seminole deputies checking on businesses

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma said businesses in his county, surprisingly, are following the restrictions under which businesses that have been shuttered due to the coronavirus pandemic can open.

"We have made contact with nearly 400 businesses to this point and have only given warnings," Lemma said. "We've had remarkable compliance with any executive order."

Lemma said education is key, but deputies will enforce compliance with the governor’s executive order allowing shops and restaurants to reopen if they follow social distancing and capacity requirements.

“We do not want the risk of incarceration to pose a greater threat than the violation in the first place,” Lemma said. “I think it’s important for all of us to recognize the rules change weekly and the state and local level and not everyone is watching every news conference. So I think that education and awareness is a big part of what we’re doing. I think that’s why we haven’t had to issue any violations. But let me be clear: If someone is recklessly endangering the health and welfare of someone else, we will.”

Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolon said his officers will check on businesses but will start with education.

“When it comes to the City of Orlando, we’re treating it as an all-hands-on-deck approach,” Rolon said. “We’re going to let them (businesses) know that. We’re going to take reports if we have to.”

Rolon said he expects Cinco de Mayo will bring the most complaints about non-compliance so far.

“Undoubtedly you’ll see a number of individuals who will try and push the limit,” Rolon said. “If we see that someone is blatantly violating those rules then obviously we’ll take the course of action necessary to address those (who) were violating it.”

Lake County Sheriff's Office Lt. John Herrell said his agency will be investigating complaints.

“...Our primary goal in any situation such as this is always voluntary compliance,” Herrell said. “If we do receive a complaint for a violation in our jurisdiction, we will send a deputy by to make contact with the business owner/representative to inform them of the possible violation in hopes of resolving the matter. If the violation is verified, the deputy will document and send all pertinent information to the Office of Code Enforcement for follow up.”

Sanford Police Department spokesperson Bianca Gillett said businesses not adhering to restrictions will face a fine.

“We will continue to address the new rules in the same fashion we have the rest of the social distancing order,” Gillett said. "We will respond to reported violations. Violations of the order can range from education or up to a $500 fine. "

Osceola County Sheriff's Office Lt. Jacob Ruiz said his agency will not check on businesses.

“We will not be actively checking businesses to make sure they are adhering to this rule,” Ruiz said. “We will respond to any calls or complaints and if any violations are observed they could be documented and forwarded to the Florida Division of Consumer Services.”

Winter Springs Police Chief Chris Deisler said police are focusing on education but also responding to complaints.

“We will respond to complaints about possible violations but our priority is education and working with our business community to help them become operational and functional again so closing or fining any business is contrary to our community focus,” Deisler said.

Longwood Police Department Sgt. Derek Chenoweth said officers will not look for violations.

“The Longwood Police Department is not proactively seeking violators and we are not going to businesses in an attempt issue fines,” Chenoweth said. “In the event a citizen calls the police to report a violation, we will respond to the location, however our presence will be solely in an education capacity. We will inform the business of the guidelines and provide them a copy of the executive orders. In the event an officer sees a blatant violation while they are present, the officer will document the information and send it to the investigations unit for follow up.”

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