Several people have been cited for gatherings of more than 10 people, and six businesses have been issued cease-and-desist orders as the Attorney General's Office enforces municipal and executive orders against public gatherings.
“This is a tremendously difficult time for everyone, and the only path forward is for all of us to take this seriously as a community,” said Attorney General Kathy Jennings. “These temporary restrictions are unprecedented, but they are necessary. Everyone’s job right now is to save lives. There is no alternative. And when people don’t take these orders seriously, we must step in.”
In Newark, two people were cited April 1 after police went to an apartment on East Main Street and found 20 people playing loud music and partying during a birthday celebration. On March 16, the city of Newark prohibited public gatherings of more than 10. Gov. John Carney later prohibited public gatherings of more than 10 on April 2.
The two people were cited with failure to obey an emergency order – a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $50 to $500 and up to 6 months in prison per infraction. They were also issued summonses for violating the city of Newark noise ordinance. A University of Delaware student was one of the two cited, according to UDaily, a University of Delaware publication. The two were released pending a later court appearance. The other 18 partiers were advised of the requirements of social distancing.
“We are deeply disappointed that this small group of students made such reckless and irresponsible choices,” said Adam Cantley, dean of students at the University, in UDaily. “Last week, all students were alerted to the various stay-at-home ordinances from both the city of Newark and the state of Delaware. The University's Office of Student Conduct will take quick and responsive action, given the severity of this incident, and would do the same for other incidents in the future.”
The Newark Police Department has indicated it will respond to reports of violations of the emergency order and will pursue enforcement, Jennings said.
Additionally, she said, six businesses have been issued cease-and-desist orders for operating in violation of the orders; one business owner was arrested for failure to obey an emergency order, but was cited in his personal capacity for personal behavior, said Mat Marshall, spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office. As a separate but concurrent matter, his business was noncompliant with the emergency directive and, after multiple police contacts, was issued a cease and desist order, Marshall said.
The Department of State has sent several warning letters to businesses, informing them that they will be shut down if their behavior does not change, Jennings said.
“The overwhelming majority of Delawareans have heeded the governor’s calls to be diligent and to keep their communities safe. By obeying the emergency orders, you are saving the lives of your family, your friends and your neighbors,” Jennings said. “The message to those who ignore the orders is simple: You are endangering people’s lives, including law enforcement officers, by forcing unnecessary interaction.”
The Department of Justice has received more than two dozen formal complaints regarding price gouging and has initiated communication with those businesses, Jennings said. On April 6, she said, the Consumer Protection Unit served a subpoena on the Great Valu at Adams Four related to price gouging allegations after the DOJ's initial letter went unanswered.
Persons or businesses who engage in price gouging face civil penalties of up to $10,000 per offense, Jennings said.
Delawareans who wish to report price gouging should contact the DOJ’s Consumer Protection hotline at (800) 220-5424 or e-mail email@example.com.