Greater Sudbury sees an influx of COVID-19 related calls to 311
It's been a couple of days since the province declared a state of emergency.
Greater Sudbury has closed its parks, non-essential businesses have shut down and those that haven't are being told to by bylaw officers.
That information comes from city officials, who say they've seen an increase in the number of calls its getting to its 311 non-ermergency help line.
Over the past four days, the city has received more than 3,200 calls to 311 and roughly a third of them have been related to COVID-19.
City officials say 90 of the calls were complaints for enforcement including businesses being open, people in closed parks or playgrounds and gatherings of over five people.
"We're asking residents to call 311 and submit their complaints. We do have six bylaw enforcement officers who are following through on the complaints as best they can in addition to their other ongoing duties. One thing I can say is that the number of the total of calls as a percentage are still low in regards to the total calls we're receiving at 311," said Greater Sudbury Mayor Brian Bigger.
From what he's been told, people for the most part appear to be following the city's emergency order.
He can't say for certain as he's been physically isolating himself, like many Canadians.
"I do see a lot of people in the parking lots at grocery stores, from some of the directions that we've heard coming out of Toronto, the suggestion we've heard on how to deal with this is try to make only essential trips out, try perhaps only to do one grocery trip per week, if that's possible you'll likely only need one person in the grocery store," said Bigger.
Brendan Adair is the Manager of Security and Bylaw Services, his team of six full-time bylaw officers have been the point people in trying to address these concerns since they were given the legislative authority.
"I think it's now an awareness piece, people are now aware of our oversight," said Adair.
"But when we are making those calls, we are seeing compliance and then people are positive in terms of seeking that direction."
Adair says bylaw officers have preferred taking a more educational approach to ticketing right out of the gate.
"Our concern is for the organized gatherings that take place in the parks as well as those gatherings that are taking place on private property, there's authority there as well," he explained.
Adair says they've only seen concerns about the public when it comes to physical distancing at essential services, places like grocery stores.
"Some of the concerns that are legitimate are a business that is open contrary to those non-essential businesses. A complaint might be a house party, knock on wood we have not seen the big house party complaint come in as we've seen in other municipalities and that's very positive for our community but to give an example, that would be a concern where somebody is hosting a social gathering at a private residence where it's more than five people so that's a complaint that we'd like to receive and we'll do some follow-up on as well," said Adair.
Public Health, the Greater Sudbury Police Service and Bylaw have been sharing the authority that was granted to them by the province.
The Greater Sudbury Police Service says its responded to approximately 60 calls related to COVID-19 ranging from self-isolation, to non-essential businesses still being open, to physical distancing and gatherings.
It adds in all of the cases, the involved individuals were compliant after being educated by officers at the scene.
An official adds that bylaw is still the primary response but when not available, police officers will be dispatched.
Fines for individuals in violation of the order start at $750 and could increase upwards of $100,000 if taken to court.