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3News Investigates: Akron neighbors calling police over new COVID-19 laws

Audio shows neighbors call over large gatherings, no masks, but no citations have been issued

AKRON, Ohio — It’s been more than a week since the city of Akron asked residents to call police on each other if they see their neighbors violating the newly implemented COVID-19 restrictions.

And citizens have responded almost daily.

At least a dozen complaints have been called into Akron police dispatchers. While officers have responded to each call, none have led to any citations.

The restrictions limit households to no more than six non-family members. They also require people inside their homes to wear masks when a non-resident is nearby and unable to maintain 6-feet distances while in the same room.

According to the law, passed by the City Council on Nov. 16, police will only make referrals to health department officials, who then can conduct their own investigation to determine if a citation should be issued to the homeowner.

The penalty could be a $250 fine. The day coincides with the holiday season and, if not extended, expires after 30 days.

3News Investigates requested Akron police release the audio recordings of the calls and reports generated by residents.

In one call, a man says a woman visiting the Summit Ridge Apartments last week on Independence Avenue was not wearing a mask while in the lobby.

He feared the woman could spread the virus to his elderly mother.

“We have an individual standing here inside the building without a mask on,” the man said in the call.  “We just got a notice that someone has contracted COVID-19  that lives in the building.

“I told her she needs to have a mask on to stand in the building. She says she doesn’t have COVID-19.  Well, I have a 97-year-old mother who doesn’t need it. So, I need somebody to come out here and instruct her.”

Police responded but the mask-less woman was gone.

Lt. Michael Miller said the call is similar to the others; officers have yet to witness any blatant violations.

“Our goal is to come have a very friendly conversation on how we can enhance safety,” Miller said. “We’re not responding to these calls with a strong arm. Essentially, [we’re] hoping that we can exchange information, provide some, and hopefully, keep everyone safe.”

In another call last week, a Clinton Avenue resident complained about a neighbor who he believed had too many visitors from out of state.

“My neighbors next door they had a group of people from Pennsylvania,” he told a dispatcher.

“How many people are there?” he’s asked by a dispatcher.

“There’s more than 6 people in there. They’re all staying there.”

The law came as Summit County, and the rest of Ohio, saw a surge in Covid-19 cases in late October and into November. According to the latest figures, there have been 13,574 coronavirus cases and 320 deaths in Summit County.

In the past month, the county has seen an extended spike in cases, from a 7-day average of 33 in October to 245 cases in a week-span earlier this month. Gov. Mike DeWine has blamed informal gatherings in homes as a major contributor to cases.

Akron police say they expect more large gatherings as Christmas approaches.

“Obviously, Thanksgiving being a pillar holiday of this year, people look forward to family,” Miller said. “We try to strike a balance with understanding.”

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