Lewes PD drone part of tactics to curb virus spread

LEWES — The 28-second message sent from above goes like this:

“Attention. From the governor’s orders all individuals are instructed to practice social distancing while using the trail.

“You are asked to maintain six feet of separation with individuals who are not your immediate family or caretaker.

“If you have any further questions please contact the Lewes Police Department.

“Thank you for your cooperation.”

Coming from a hovering drone, a computer-generated voice issues reminders about taking mandatory coronavirus precautions. The department’s licensed pilot has guided it over beach area spots dozens of times this week.

“We’re using it mostly on the beaches and bike trails, and downtown when there’s enough aerial space,” according to Lewes PD Chief Thomas Spell on Thursday.

The public is generally heeding Gov. John Carney’s state of emergency order and no arrests have been made, multiple Kent and Sussex County police law enforcement agencies reported Thursday.

On Monday, however, Camden Police charged a visitor from Pennsylvania with a misdemeanor violation of the order along with trespassing following a domestic related incident.

“(He) drove down from Pennsylvania to see his ex-girlfriend who refused to see him, he then refused to leave her property causing her to call police,” Chief Marcus Whitney said.

The man was taken into custody without incident, police said.

Following a video arraignment through Justice of the Peace Court 7 in Dover, he was released with a no contact order, according to authorities.

“He was taken back to his vehicle, directed to leave the state and return to his residence in Pennsylvania, to which he complied,” Chief Whitney said.

Felton Police received two large gathering reports on Sunday, spokesman Cpl. Christopher Guild said. No charges were brought in either response.

Approximately 20 males found playing basketball behind Lake Forest North Elementary School were reminded of the state of emergency order, authorities said. They complied and dispersed, police said.

Also, five children playing outside a house were reminded of the order and social distancing guidelines, police said.

No other issues have been reported, Cpl. Guild said.

Regular vehicle stops

Lewes officers are regularly stopping vehicles with out of state licenses plates to give reminders about the restrictions in effect since last month.

There have been no arrests, Chief Spell said, and the public has been cooperative during contacts.

“We’re not taking a heavy handed approach to this,” he said. “The emphasis is on education and people have been cooperative, courteous and compliant.”

Enforcement statistics will soon be available, according to the chief.

Lewes officer are also “placing informational flyers on the windshields of vehicles bearing out-of-state registration plates when they are observed parked in parking lots and on public property,” Chief Spell said. “We have also visited every open business in the city and posted a state issued flyer prohibiting out-of-state residents to enter and shop unless they have followed the quarantine order.”

The municipal police force has 13 officers to provide 24 hour coverage seven days a week.

“It’s challenging for our people on patrol but we still respond to emergency complaints immediately,” Chief Spell said. “We’ve also changed some operations such as using phones more for non-emergency complaints.

“When we do respond to a residence we ask people to come outside and maintain a social distance of at least six feet.”

Partnering with the Delaware Department of Transportation, Lewes PD executed an initiative where large electronic sign boards were placed at city entrance points and for exiting Cape May-Lewes Ferry riders advising of the quarantine mandate.

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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