No more warnings: Miami cops ticketing mask mandate violators

MIAMI (WSVN) - City of Miami Police have a message for residents: mask up or pay up.

The department is taking a no-nonsense approach to enforcing the city’s emergency order requiring everyone to wear face masks in public during the coronavirus pandemic, regardless of whether they are able to social distance.

Now officers will no longer let first-time offenders off with a warning.

Thursday night, cameras showed residents of Miami’s Edgewater neighborhood walking along North Bayshore Drive wearing face masks.

“Anything you can do to stop the spread is helpful,” said a passer-by. “It’s not that difficult to just put a mask on.”

“If I can play my part and wear my mask, that’s what I’m going to try to do,” said one resident.

A man whose face was uncovered said he was unaware of the order.

“I didn’t know about it. If I knew about the fine, I’d probably wear a mask,” he said.

Thursday afternoon, cameras captured officers walking the beat in Edgewater near Margaret Pace Park. They were on the lookout for uncovered faces in the crowd.

“Got to make sure you’re covering your whole face,” said an officer to a man spotted without a face covering.

The officer wrote him a $100 ticket.

“I think it’s hilarious and disturbing,” said David Hinds the recipient of the civil citation. “I didn’t think I needed one in public if I was six feet away, but it’s so ridiculous, I don’t know if I could bring myself to actually participate in this insanity. I feel silly.”

Officials said the time for first-time warnings is over, adding they take this matter very seriously.

The rule change comes as daily cases of COVID-19 keep rising.

Those spotted not wearing a mask a first or second time will receive a $100 ticket. If it happens a third time, they could face arrest and a notice to appear in court.

“It’s all very ridiculous,” said Hinds, who got his ticket while at the park.

He wasn’t alone. So far, Miami Police officers have logged 115 tickets, 59 written warnings, 41 $50 tickets and 15 for $100.

“We do come across people who are not wearing a mask. Officers are issuing them a civil citation for $100,” said Miami Police Deputy Chief Ron Papier, “and we’re also giving them a mask as well, so they can put it on immediately.”

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez discussed the mask mandate and the stepped-up enforcement with Fox News Channel on Thursday.

When asked whether police will arrest people spotted not wearing masks, he replied, “Obviously, that would be the last resort, and actually, the way it works is an escalating fine system.”

Masking up is also required in Broward County, where authorities have warned residents the emergency order will be strictly enforced.

“This is a public safety issue,” said Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony. “We are citing people. We are dealing with shutting down businesses, and we will keep that tone.”

Despite rainy weather in Miami, a 7News crew spotted police officers on foot or in cruisers in and near Margaret Pace Park throughout the day looking for people without face coverings.

Anyone with questions and concerns about the coronavirus can call the Florida Department of Health’s 24-hour hotline at 1-866-779-6121.

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