Dozens Violate Murphy’s No-crowds Order Across NJ, But Cops Say Most Comply
"Compliance checks" conducted by law enforcement around New Jersey have found and investigated 39 possible violations of Gov. Phil Murphy's executive order prohibiting gatherings of any number this week.
The order is meant to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, and builds on earlier orders that limited gatherings to 25 people.
During Friday's daily briefing about coronavirus, State Police Sgt. Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan said charges were filed in 11 cases, in 12 counties. The charges included public mischief, creating a public alarm and obstruction.
He didn't give names of individuals who'd been charged, or run down a list of locations.
"A vast, vast majority of everybody in the state is doing their part as pertains to the aspects of what is outlined in the executive orders," Callahan said.
Large weddings and a party broken up in Lakewood this week have received the most attention — and significant public scorn.
Earlier in the week, officers responded to a gathering of 25 teenagers at a building on Main Street around 8 a.m. Tuesday and a wedding at a home on Newport Drive about 2:30 p.m. In both cases, a criminal complaint was issued to the owner and homeowner.
Ocean County Health Department officials say there have been hundreds of confirmed coronavirus cases in Lakewood alone. The state's tally for county Ocean County overall was around 500 Friday.
Callahan said he and Attorney General Grubir Grewal had a conference call on Thursday with Lakewood leaders, including Ocean County prosecutor Bradley Billhimer, police chief Gregory Meyer and Deputy Mayor Menashe Miller.
"99.9% of the residents of Lakewood and throughout New Jersey are complying with the aspects of this," Callahan said.
Callahan said a wedding at the Wayne Street home of William Katzenstein, 39, was not an instance where people were disregarding the governor's orders, but one in which people misunderstood them.
Katzenstein thought he could "spread attendees at a wedding across three backyards to keep it at (groups of) 10 and under so it was an education thing," Callahan said.
Callahan repeated Murphy's message at Thursday's daily press briefing on the coronavirus that discrimination and harassment against any religious community in social media, graffiti or verbally will not be tolerated. Lakewood is home to a large community of observant Jews, and backlash on social media has often been specific to the Jewish community there.
People harassing religious or other minorities will be "caught will be prosecuted to the fullest extent allowed by law," Callahan said.
State police did not immediately return a message seeking information about all of the other incidents.
Warren County Prosecutor James Pfeiffer said David Merring, the owner of Rack and Roll Billiards in Washington Township, was charged on Thursday with obstruction for being open in defiance of an executive order requiring non-essential businesses to remain closed.Murphy
Merring told Lehigh Valley Live an employee was playing pool and the facility was not open.