Most college parties are shut down for offenses like excessive noise or underage drinking, but it was the threat of the coronavirus that put an end to an off-campus party in Elon on Saturday.
Elon’s town police force broke up a gathering of around 15 students in the 200 block of Atkinson Avenue for violating Governor Roy Cooper’s March 27 executive order, which prohibits groups of 10 or more, that went into effect at 5:00 p.m. on Monday.
Citations were given to each partygoer for violating the governor’s order, which wouldn’t take effect for two more days. Considered a class 2 misdemeanor, police chief Kelly Blackwelder told The Alamance News that the crime usually constitutes a mandatory court appearance for first-time offenders. The newspaper was unable to reach the police chief regarding the timing of the citations before press time Wednesday.
Those with prior criminal records could face a maximum of penalty of 60 days in jail and a $1,000 fine, she said in an initial interview.
Blackwelder explained that the incident was the first the department has faced, with officers stopping in on another, seven-person gathering for a noise complaint and to remind the group of the governor’s restriction.
The police department has worked with Elon University to get word out about the governor’s order, the police chief added, and information has also been posted on the department’s social media page.
The department has also adjusted its operations, with its office at 104 S. Williamson Ave. being closed to the public. Blackwelder told the newspaper that her officers have switched over to doing reports for minor offenses and follow-ups over the phone. Officers are still going out for more serious calls and to patrol for traffic violations.
For the protection of its officers and their families, the department has also started sending out officers with gloves, face masks, and Tyvek coveralls. Officers have also been instructed to practice “social distancing” as much as possible.
“It’s kind of a double-edged sword that we’re trying to protect ourselves to protect everyone else,” Blackwelder said.