HPD changes how they respond amid COVID-19 outbreak

HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — Police officers come into contact with dozens of people every day, but in midst of the global pandemic, officers are changing the way they respond.

"Community policing is important for us, but at this point, limiting our contact with individuals is also high on the priority list," said Harrisonburg Police Chief, Eric English,

English said his officers are also practicing social distancing when they respond to calls. If possible, officers are asking people to come out of their homes, they're responding to more calls over the phone and asking the public to limit unnecessary calls.

There have also been several reports of businesses violating Executive Order 53 which was put into place earlier this week by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam. The order forced all "non-essential" businesses to close and limited the way restaurants can operate.

English said starting on Monday, there will be a department dedicated to responding to these calls.

"It is a class one misdemeanor to violate an order from the Governor, so there is a citation that we can issue," English said. "We're not out to be the bad guy, but at the same time, we understand this is a huge issue and we need people to take this seriously."