Despite the number of calls, there have been no arrests or citations issued so far, said John Griffith, the public information officer for the department.
On March 24, League City City Council passed an ordinance that allows police to fine residents up to $2,000 if they violate the county’s stay-at-home order amid the coronavirus outbreak. The council passed the measure to give some “teeth” to the order, which aims to minimize social contact and help slow the spread of COVID-19, council members said at the meeting.
Since that decision through April 1, there have been 40 separate reports to League City police of residents and local businesses violating the ordinance, according to police records obtained by Community Impact Newspaper.
Of the 40 calls, at least four were to the same business.
Roman Iron Gym, 1261 Butler Road, League City, was reported to police as being open on March 29 and 30 and twice on April 1. According to police reports, callers said they heard music coming from the gym on March 29. Police responded March 29 but found the gym was only being renovated by staff.
“They did have music playing while they moved equipment, but no gains were being achieved,” one report reads.
On March 30, police responded to another report the gym was open. An officer knocked on the business’s door and was greeted by an employee who said only staff members were working out. The employee told the officer customers were not allowed in the gym because of the stay-at-home order, according to the reports.
During the final response April 1, police found the gym’s owner, George Roman, along with four residents at the gym. An officer told Roman this was the fourth call to the business and that they had to leave the gym, which they did, according to the reports.
Reached by telephone, Roman reiterated the police reports and said he and his employees were renovating the gym but that reporting neighbors thought customers were working out. The renovations are done now, Roman said.
In another call, a barbershop was reported as open, but police found it closed, according to reports.
Griffith said there have been no citations or arrests so far, even in the case of the gym that was reported four times. Police recognize that for many businesses, customers have spent money that will not necessarily be refunded and want to get their money’s worth, so officers are trying to be understanding, Griffith said.
“We’re working with people,” he said.
However, it will eventually come to a point where businesses or residents will know they are in willful violation of the stay-at-home order and will be held accountable, Griffith said.
League City Police Chief Gary Ratliff said police will arrest residents for violating the order only as a last resort.
According to reports, police have responded to a number of reports of gatherings of 10 or more people. In some cases, police have had to ask residents to disperse.
On March 27, police responded to a reported party of 20 people having a crawfish boil. Officers found the party and told the homeowners about the city ordinance. The homeowner then shut the party down, according to the reports.
On March 29, at least two callers reported a church gathering on a lawn with residents hugging and shaking hands. When responding, police found 15 to 20 vehicles on a nearby street and groups of five to six people walking through the neighborhood, according to a report.
“If hundreds of people were here, they must have left prior to my arrival,” the officer's report reads.
Police also responded to a pool party, residents at a gun range, golfers, children playing sports at a park and other calls. In most cases, residents were not violating the stay-at-home order, according to reports.
Other reports were exaggerated or unsubstantiated, according to reports. In several calls, residents reported seeing 15 to 20 or more gathering together, but police found far fewer or sometimes none at all.
For the most part, police have not seen a change in the type or frequency of police reports since the stay-at-home order was enacted.
Griffith has heard of other communities seeing an uptick in domestic violence calls, but that has not happened in League City. However, police have responded to domestic disturbances, such as people losing their tempers and yelling at each other, Griffith said.
There also has not been a large increase in vandalism. League City is largely a residential community without stretches of vacant or closed businesses. In fact, under the county’s order, most of League City’s businesses are deemed “essential” and have remained open in some form, Griffith said.
Police are still responding to reports of thefts, shoplifting and fraud at the same frequency.
“For the most part, they’re the same,” Griffith said.
One thing that has changed, however, is the number of vehicle break-ins.
In some communities, vehicle break-ins are up, but in League City, they are down 82%. This is likely because residents stuck at home are being more vigilant and aware of their surroundings, Griffith said.
“In League City, people are paying attention,” he said.