ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — St. Petersburg leaders are sending a strong message to people visiting public parks amid the COVID-19 outbreak: Follow social distancing rules, or we'll be forced to ticket you.
Police officers say it’s the next logical step to ensure people aren’t gathering in groups of 10 or more at parks across the city.
Tuesday, Police Chief Anthony Holloway reiterated a message delivered by Mayor Rick Kriseman the day prior. Holloway says his department received more than 60 calls over the weekend about large groups gathering in places like North Shore Park downtown. Some people were even spotted climbing over barricades to access playgrounds or workout equipment.
“I can tell you if people are going to violate this, we are going to give out fines. We are worried about the men and women who work here at the police department, the men and women at the hospitals and our loved ones,” Holloway said.
A citation will cost up to $500 and is a second-degree misdemeanor.
“We don’t want to see the spread. If people don’t follow instructions, it’s going to spread,” Holloway said.
Local leaders also warn, if people continue to break the rules, all city parks could be shut down.
Park visitors tell ABC Action News they hope it doesn’t come to that.
Will Brazan said he understands the need to be careful, but parks are a part of his daily routine.
“I come here every morning. I would be so mad,” he said, referring to North Shore Park.
“If we all follow the rules, we’ll all be able to go outside and enjoy," said Robert Goddard, who agrees.
Officers also plan to beef up enforcement at popular parks, particularly at night and on the weekends.
In a video announcement Monday, Mayor Rick Kriseman took a particular issue with groups putting up nets on closed volleyball courts, playing football, playing basketball and accessing North Shore Beach, which is fully closed.