California police order hundreds off beaches, issue citations over shelter-in-place violations

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Hundreds were ordered off beaches and cited in one California community over the weekend by police enforcing a shelter-in-place order meant to slow the spread of coronavirus.

The Pacifica Police Department said in a news release that between Friday and Sunday, officers patrolling Linda Mar Beach were forced to order 275 visitors off the beach, after learning they resided more than five miles away.

"We found an alarming number of those folks had, in fact, traveled more than five miles to come to those beaches and hiking trails," Pacifica Police Capt. Chris Clements told KTVU.

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Clements said that even though beach parking was closed, crowds came in droves, some from as far away as Sacramento, more than 100 miles away.

Hundreds of people were ordered off beaches in Northern California over the weekend for violating shelter-in-place orders.

Hundreds of people were ordered off beaches in Northern California over the weekend for violating shelter-in-place orders. (KTVU)

Over a three-day period, police said that roughly 45 percent of the vehicles counted near beaches and trails were registered in areas more than five miles away.

"Please stay home," Clements told KTVU. "These orders are in place to protect everybody's health.

Last month, San Mateo County Health Officer Scott Morrow issued an order prohibiting from outdoor recreational activity outside a five-mile radius of an individual's residence. Pacifica Mayor Deirdre Martin said the data shows that "many are not taking these orders seriously."

In Pacifica, police said that roughly 45 percent of the vehicles counted near beach and trail areas were from areas outside of five miles from which they were registered. 

In Pacifica, police said that roughly 45 percent of the vehicles counted near beach and trail areas were from areas outside of five miles from which they were registered.  (KTVU)

"This is alarming because unsafe conditions are occurring and, as a result, the city, in coordination with the state, may be left with no choice but to close the beaches entirely to everyone unless conditions improve," she said Monday.

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Hundreds violated that order this past weekend across San Mateo County. The sheriff's office noted an increase in out-of-area visitors. Sunday was the busiest day.

"They did their best to keep up with the thousands of people visiting the coast," Lt. Stephanie Josephson said in a press release. "We had hundreds of people on the beach and practically anywhere they could find a place to sit along the coast line."

Deputies gave more than 650 people verbal warnings, issued more than 300 parking tickets and handed out five citations.

"Most families encountered had packed their family vehicle with bags of toys, food and items for a full day at the beach,” Josephson said. "Most people seemed to be aware of the health orders but decided to take the chance in coming out to the beaches and complied with the verbal warnings.”

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Josephson urged residents from outside the area to stay closer to home and remain in their own neighborhoods.

State officials have asked residents to avoid flocking to beaches and parks due to COVID-19.

The California Department of Parks and Recreation said last week on Twitter, "While it’s our mission to keep you outdoors & active, it’s also our mission to keep you safe," and urged, "Please don’t take any road trips to parks & beaches now and let’s all do our part to ‪#FlattenTheCurve.”

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As of Wednesday, there are 35,845 cases of COVID-19 in California with at least 1,326 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.