3 municipalities join Newark lockdown; cops issuing summonses

Locked tennis courts in Branch Brook Park in Newark, N.J., March 26, 2020. ( AP )

Police in Newark have written nearly 200 summonses to people congregating on the streets and also shut down several businesses that violated the city and state's rules during the coronavirus pandemic.

Mayor Ras Baraka said that cops in Newark and neighboring East Orange, Orange, and Irvington are stepping up enforcement on residents and businesses that break the lockdown rules and will file criminal charges against repeat offenders. They will also stop people from travelling from between the municipalities, the mayor said.

"Now is not the time to hang out at the corner, now is not the time to sit with everybody on the stoop, now is not the time to go to the playground to play basketball," Baraka said. "Stay inside. Stay alive. Keep yourself and your loved ones safe."

Newark police closed 16 nonessential businesses--including a nail salon, hairdresser, and a photo store--and issued more than 250 summonses for obstructing the business of law, Police Director Anthony Ambrose said. Cops also broke up a church service attended by a few dozen people but didn't ticket anyone.

"It's a big city and we know we're not going to get 100% compliance," Ambrose said. "But it's getting better."

The fines for ignoring the lockdown range from $30 to $200. But Baraka said that the Essex County Prosecutor will charge people who repeatedly break the rules with obstruction of law.

"We are on a lockdown. It may sound Draconian and it may seem unfair and it may sound like people are oppressing you, but we need you to stay inside," Baraka said. "Why? Because it is dangerous to come out. It is dangerous to you and everybody you come in contact with."

The mayor said authorities will shut down non-essential businesses that violate the order or that don't enforce social-distancing rules.

Nearly 19,000 New Jersey residents have tested positive for COVID-19 through Tuesday.

With The Associated Press

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