Oxford continues enforcement of local mask, mass gathering laws. How many citations are they writing?

The Oxford Police Department saw more resident reports of violations of mask and mass gathering ordinances in recent weeks as the weather warmed, and officials said the spring could lead to more activity.

During the summer, Oxford became one of the few cities in the region to pass ordinances requiring mask-wearing and setting rules on mass gatherings as precautions in the COVID-19 pandemic.

City Manager Doug Elliott encouraged residents to notify the police department if they witness a suspected violation and predicted a more difficult time of enforcement as the weather warms up and Miami University students seek to get outside more.

Oxford police Chief John Jones said the department has been using overtime since January to supplement regular-duty patrol officers in dealing with the number of calls received, many involving the mass gatherings and mask violations. H

e said much of that overtime patrol has been for officers walking the Uptown area to deal with those not wearing masks either in businesses or outside in groups. He added such supplemental patrol help would usually come in April, in a normal year, but has been in place already in response to COVID concerns.

He said the department has issued four citations for mask violations since the Miami students returned to Oxford.

There were 72 total calls for service in a 12-hour period from noon to midnight on Feb. 27, which was the warmest Saturday of the year to date.

Jones also noted the public may often not be aware of what officers are doing because writing a citation is not as visible.

“The Mass Gathering and Facemask ordinances are also unclassified misdemeanors, only enforceable as a civil citation,” the chief noted in his comments. “We don’t physically arrest for these violations and the deterrence effect of writing a ticket at a party is likely more limited than when we put someone in handcuffs and walk them to a patrol car. It’s not always noticeable to the general public that an officer is writing a citation at a party.”

Referring to the police chief’s statistics for last weekend, Elliott said the department was busy.

“As the weather continues to improve and students desire to socialize outside increases, I expect our limited police resources (18 patrol officers and six sergeants) to be to be challenged even further while also responding to other calls for service in the city,” he said, urging residents to report suspected violations. “Please continue to call OPD when you witness a possible violation and OPD will respond.”