FAIRHOPE – City Council members support restrictions on gatherings of people to curtail the spread of the COVID 19 outbreak but said a curfew could cause more harm than good.
The council voted 4-1 to reject a proposal to impose a curfew between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. in the city during the outbreak.
Mayor Karin Wilson said many cities around the state have imposed curfews and a similar restriction in Fairhope could give the authority to deal with situations where people are gathering while the state stay-at-home order is in effect.
“I do think it will help,” she told council members. “The city of Fairhope has been proactive in many local decisions and I appreciate y’all’s support with this, including the first to cancel a big even in Baldwin County, the Arts and Crafts, and I don’t think there’s any question that was the right decision.”
Councilman Jay Robinson said, however, that an ordinance directing police to challenge people out after 10 p.m. could expose officers and the public to potential infection.
“It really creates more of a burden for the police in the enforcement than no curfew creates because now they’re expecting the Mobile Police Department to stop every and every person who they see outside of the curfew and question them and then see documentation from them that they have a valid reason to be out,” Robinson said. “That is a concern to me.”
Councilman Jimmy Conyers, the only member to vote for the resolution, said the curfew could help authorities control the virus.
“I’m in favor of the curfew,” Conyers said. “I think the name of the game right now is just the more aggressive we can be on keeping people at home, the quicker we can get this behind us. Unless it’s just too much of a burden for the police department, people need to stay home and if putting a curfew out there would help get that message across then I think it’s probably worth pursuing.”
Council President Jack Burrell said that the proposed curfew, like the state order directing residents to stay at home, is too weak to be of much use.
“If you’re going to do a curfew, you don’t do a watered-down curfew,” Burrell said. “If you’re going to do a shelter in place, which is why I really wasn’t in favor of the shelter in place, because it’s so watered down that I don’t know exactly what it’s doing. It’s a suggestion and the curfew would almost be more as a suggestion. It doesn’t have a lot of teeth in it.”
Police Chief Stephanie Hollinghead said that so far, most residents have cooperated with directives to not gather in numbers larger than 10.
“Everything so far has been very workable. Everybody has been very cooperative. We’ve not had any issues,” she said. “We’ve not had to make any arrests because people have just been defiant. We’ve had to bust up several groups of teenagers late in the evening at some of the local establishments.”
Council members said that if conditions change and more restrictions are needed, the council will come back and impose a curfew or take other measures.