by Mike Knaak
The warm and dry weather coupled with a traditional college spring party time over the April 18-19 weekend posed a challenge for St. Joseph police attempting to enforce the state’s social distancing and stay-at-home orders.
Noncompliance with the orders aimed limiting the spread of coronavirus could result in a $1,000 fine and 90 days in jail, but the governor recommended education rather than enforcement.
St. Joseph Police Chief Dwight Pfannenstein told City Council members at the April 20 meeting the education approach produced limited compliance.
Pfannenstein said he and Mayor Rick Schultz met with college officials earlier in the month to make sure students were aware of the rules limiting social gatherings. Even with distance learning underway and the campuses closed, there are still students living in rental housing.
When the weekend arrived, Pfannenstein said “we did see students who were not socially responsible.”
Officers were instructed not to write tickets for big gatherings unless there was a criminal violation. But the officers did take note of who was partying and later made what the chief described as “house visits.”
Officers wrote tickets for garbage in yards left over from parties and for residents with no keg permits. The kegs were seized as evidence.
Pfannenstein said the students apparently did not get a clear message from the colleges.
He acknowledged there’s frustration with the stay-at-home orders and that many local businesses are feeling the financial pain of being shut down.
“This is a time that we’ve never seen before,” the chief said.