Upstate law enforcement hopes community does its part after 'work or home' order
While an executive order issued by Gov. Henry McMaster on Monday gives law enforcement the authority to charge people who needlessly leave their homes amid the growing coronavirus pandemic, agencies in the Upstate said they hope to work with the community to make such enforcement unnecessary.
Violating the work-or-home order is a misdemeanor that carries a penalty of up to 30 days in jail or a $100 fine upon conviction.
But Greenville County Sheriff Hobart Lewis said residents by and large have complied with the orders handed down by the governor, and deputies have not issued any tickets or made any arrests.
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He advised people to continue adhering to social distancing and hygiene guidelines.
"I do think that people in Greenville certainly put their families' health and the community's health above their own personal wants," he said. "I think everybody's working together to help to diminish the spread of this virus."
Lt. Alia Paramore, a spokeswoman for the Greenville Police Department, said her agency is taking a similar approach to the order. While officers will issue tickets if necessary, she said, Greenville police have not written any so far and hope to keep it that way.
"We're really trying to watch out for our community," Paramore said. "The sooner we get beyond this, the sooner we can open everything up and start moving forward. But from a law enforcement standpoint, this is not something we are searching out."
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Paramore said she hopes regard for the health and safety of the community will motivate residents to stay home, rather than fear of a ticket.
"A partnership will serve us much better in these times than people asking, 'What are the cops going to do?' " she said.
Anderson County Sheriff Chad McBride said his officers will enforce Gov. Henry McMaster's work-or-home order as necessary, but that his agency has other priorities, too.
"We still have to respond to 911 calls and emergencies and investigate crime," he said. "All of those things are our No. 1 priorities. We don't have time to sit there and watch the roadways. We're just not going to be able to do that everywhere."
Still, McBride said his officers are taking COVID-19 seriously, especially because 911 center employee Becky Carter lost her mother, Patsy Partain, to the virus.
"It hits us because it's someone we know," he said. "The best thing for people to do is go home and stay home and to practice social distancing if they just have to be out."
He said his officers are "not going to turn Anderson County into a police state."
But, he said, if they are aware of large crowds gathered or people who are traveling unnecessarily, they'll do what they can to halt those activities.
"If we see a bunch of teenagers in a car hanging out and trying to party like it's 1999, that's probably going to be a car stop," he said. "If there's a big group hanging out outside a convenience store, we'll try to break it up."
Capt. Mike Aikens, a spokesman for the Anderson Police Department, said his agency is hoping to educate people who don't understand the order instead of issuing citations or making arrests.
"You'd be surprised how many people don't even understand the governor's order and don't understand the extent of it," Aikens said. "If we see somebody doing something that is not allowed under the governor's order because of this pandemic, usually, when we talk to people about it, they understand. They realize and stop and we all move on. Our goal is not to give citations. It is to educate people."
Still, Aikens said, he wonders if people will follow the order as springtime days tempt them.
"When we keep having these pretty skies and this warm weather, it will be interesting to see what people do," he said. "We do intend to take this order seriously, so, you know, we'll educate people, but we're not all bark and no bite. We'll enforce where we need to if people don't follow the rules."
Conor Hughes is a public safety reporter with The Greenville News. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ConorJHughes.
Nikie Mayo is a public safety watchdog reporter. Reach her at email@example.com.