WESTBROOK — Arrests are down in the city since the governor’s COVID-19 stay at home order went into effect statewide April 2, but police have been charging some alleged repeat offenders with violating the order itself.

Gov. Janet Mills’ order restricts public gatherings and travel for non-essential employees in order to combat the spread of coronavirus. The “violation of the governor’s executive orders” charge can result in a maximum of six months jail time and a $1,000 fine.

“With any of the governor’s orders, Westbrook officers are taking the education and warning approach, seeking cooperation and voluntary compliance,”  Chief Janine Roberts said.

Those charged with violating the order have been repeatedly talked to about the stay-at-home order, she said.

Overall, arrests, according to the police department’s arrest logs, are down about 50 percent since before the pandemic. From March 6 to April 20, seven of 13 arrests or summonses issued included the charge. In all cases but one, the violation charge accompanied other charges, such as theft.

In that one case, a 19-year-old Westbrook man had repeatedly been out and about on Seavey Street, Roberts said, and “officers had dealt with him multiple times over the course of several days,” Roberts said.

“Due to his ongoing behavior and not heeding the governor’s order, the officers made the decision to charge him,” she said.

Some neighboring police departments say they haven’t charged anyone with violating the executive order because they haven’t encountered repeat violators.

“People seem to be adhering to the order fairly well, and when my officers address concerns, people are very cooperative,” said Windham Police Chief Kevin Schofield.

Portland police have found most residents have been complying with the order as well.

“It appears as though we’ve received around 10 complaints, mostly related to businesses, but most have been found to be in compliance or, if not, otherwise voluntarily complied. A couple are currently being reviewed,” Portland Police Chief Frank Clark said.

Still, Portland police are working on a cease and desist letter to give first-time violators, with any second violation possibly resulting in the charge.

“This will make it easier for subsequent violations to be addressed through enforcement and issuance of court process,” Clark said.

Maine ACLU is keeping a watch on the use of the violation of executive order charge. Other than in Westbrook, the charge hasn’t shown up elsewhere in Southern Maine, but it is being used in other parts of Maine, it said.

“When a police interaction does result in a criminal charge, police have the discretion to issue a summons rather than taking a person into custody, and should do so whenever possible,” said Rachel Healy, communications director for the Maine ACLU.  “Booking a person into jail puts them in close proximity to other people, risks their health and the health of the officer and jail staff, and undermines the goals of the executive order they were enforcing in the first place.”

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