Most Social Distancing Complaints Unfounded; Police Have Not Made Arrests

Social Distancing arrestsIn Brief – No civil or criminal citations have been issued in Ulster County for violating social distancing or business closure orders, Sheriff Juan Figueroa — the county’s lead on enforcing the New York State on PAUSE executive orders — said Tuesday.

“We’re not at that point,” Figueroa said, adding his office had only recently began receiving the official complaints, which are filed with the state.

Figueroa and Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan said during a live-streamed town hall Tuesday they had received calls, emails and official complaints about people violating social distancing orders or non-essential business operating, but, in most cases, the complaints ended up being nothing.

Many complaints were made about social distancing violations on rail trails, but a bicycle deputy who rode the trail Sunday found hikers were mostly going out of their way to follow the orders, and groups on the trail were generally families, according to Figueroa.

Ryan added many complaints cited a large number of cars in trail parking lots, but this did not mean guidelines were being disregarded on the broad, lengthy trails.

Figueroa gave two examples of unfounded complaints against county businesses during the town hall. In one instance, after receiving a complaint about a supermarket, the proprietor video-called the Sheriff to show him how the store was following guidelines. In the second, a complaint about a bar operating turned out to be the owner and two family members refurbishing the interior.

Figueroa said enforcement of the state orders would primarily be about talking to people or issuing warnings. In the worst-case scenario, deputies could make misdemeanor arrests “if you put someone’s life in jeopardy over and over again, if you’ve been warned, and you don’t want to adhere to that policy,” he said. “Again, we don’t want to do that.”

The situation was tough for him as a former Marine and current law officer, Figueroa said, positions for which he’s vowed to protect freedoms and the American way of life.

As alien as being required to be stay away from others was, the guidelines are only temporary, and Figueroa urged residents to be vigilant about them.

“We’re asking you to be apart, so you can be together after this is over, and that’s what it’s all really about,” he said. “It’s about saving lives.”

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