Law enforcement: Don't use 911 to report large gatherings or other COVID-19 violations

While some people continue to ignore state COVID-19 restrictions, others are hoping to keep them accountable. The King County Sheriff’s Office said its call centers are receiving reports of large gatherings and defiant businesses.

“When we do get complaints about social gatherings, complaints, a person’s not wearing their face masks or honoring social distancing, we refer them to the Department of Health or King County’s own coronavirus hotline and we have had great success,” said Sgt. Tim Meyer, of the King County Sheriff’s Office.

While reporting COVID-19 violations is good in theory, people should not call 911 to file a complaint, authorities said.. This could hold up the lines at the communications center trying to dispatch first responders to an emergency or public safety issue.

“We want to prioritize the resources that we have to really respond to those immediate life safety issues. King County is a large, diverse county. It’s about twice the size of Rhode Island. So it’s important that the sheriff’s office and all of our partnering agencies can be responsive,” said Meyer.

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There are options for those who still want to speak up against violators during this pandemic. Instead of calling 911, both Public Health – Seattle & King County and the Washington State Department of Health have online forms available. DOH also is also accepting calls on its Public Safety Information Hotline at 800-525-0127.

“When education comes before enforcement, what we find is communities are very responsive and we just get a very high rate of voluntary compliance. And it just makes it easier for everyone,” said Meyer.

Some visitors at Houghton Beach Park in Kirkland said they may not report violators, but would strongly encourage their own family and friends to maintain healthy practices.

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“I feel like people are recommitting to this idea because they can see an end in sight. We know a vaccine is coming. And so I think we just want to get across the finish line,” said Cheri Fowler, while visiting Houghton Beach Park.

“We have to do our diligence work to do the precautions so we stay away from this horrendous virus,” said Maryam Bigverdi, while visiting Houghton Beach Park.