APD, TCSO will enforce stay-at-home orders, large groups with education, awareness

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Police and the Travis County Sheriff’s Office say they will enforce orders not to gather in public as a last resort, if they need to.

“We want everyone to recognize how serious this is and how serious they should be taking it, so we don’t get to enforcement,” said Major Craig Smith of the Travis County Sheriff’s Office.

Smith told KXAN that TCSO deputies have been directed to respond to complaints the sheriff’s office gets and gatherings they come across where there are groups of people who are in complete violation of the order.

“People understand that this does have the ability to be enforced criminally, but that is the very last thing we want to do,” Smith said. 

In an APD training bulletin, the department said its officers will also respond to calls in which gatherings are a concern. 

In those situations, officers will first focus on education and awareness, then ask groups to voluntarily comply with the city’s order, then give group members a warning, then cite anyone who isn’t compliant. APD says arrests won’t be made in these situations. Smith says Travis County will also be watching for people violating orders at apartment complex pools.

At popular outdoor spots like Zilker Park and Barton Creek, many groups could be found Wednesday.

“We don’t see a ton of social distancing,” said Austin resident Haylee Hibdon as she practiced yoga six feet apart from a friend. “We were trying to be good and follow orders, just because we don’t know how much they’re enforcing this here.”

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