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Metro Police Weigh in on Social Gathering Enforcement

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Flattening the curve in Iowa will take everyone.

“Most Iowans are being responsible and doing their part. It is only a small segment that is throwing caution to the wind and ignoring the limitations on social gatherings,” said Stephan Bayens, Iowa Department of Public Safety Commissioner.

Since not everyone is complying, Gov. Kim Reynolds gave law enforcement the green light to enforce penalties if Iowans continue to gather in large groups of more than ten people. “I need every Iowan to take responsibility for their health and the health of others. This week is critical,” said Reynolds.

The Des Moines and West Des Moines police departments believe some gatherings are by people that just don’t understand how easy the virus is spread.

“It’s an important piece that people need to understand. This virus doesn’t move itself around. We move it around,” said Des Moines Police Sgt. Paul Parizek.

Other gatherings may have even been accidental. “We had a lot of people congregating in parks because they are trying to get kids out of the house and burn energy off and those good things. Well, then once you get four or five families, now you’ve got a bunch of people there,” said West Des Moines Police Sgt. Jason Bryan.

Whatever the reason for gathering, it could now result in a simple misdemeanor in a few steps. Bryan said, “If we find individuals or businesses being non-compliant, we talk to them about that and make sure they understand what the rules are and ask them for voluntary compliance.” Bayens said, “Finally should all other reasonable measures fail, then and only then will we do what the law requires and enforce the governor’s orders.” Parizek added, “An arrest or citation is the absolute last resort.”

Among the tipping points over the weekend in downtown Des Moines was when Locust Street and Grand Avenue were packed with cars for a “Scoop the Loop” event. Police say individuals were not just staying in their vehicles. Parizek said, “There were crowds of well over ten people and sometimes 20-plus standing on the street corner. Our officers made over 50 different contacts between traffic violations and dispersing crowds and those are 50 contacts we don’t want to make.”

With an uncertain future ahead, Iowans can be a part of the solution or the problem. Parizek said, “Trust the process, be patient, be calm and we are going to come out of this good. We also need to think about the world we will live in when we come out of it. We don’t want to do anything now that is going to jeopardize our future.”

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