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NEW YORK — In New York City, they’ve started dismantling basketball hoops to prevent people from gathering in parks and playing. In Lakewood, New Jersey, police broke up a wedding being held in violation of a ban on large gatherings. And in Austin, Texas, officers are encouraging people to call a hotline to snitch on violators of the city’s orders for people to stay home.
Police departments are taking a lead role in enforcing social distancing guidelines that health officials say are critical to containing COVID-19. Along with park rangers, fire inspectors and other public servants, officers more accustomed to chasing suspects and solving crimes are spending these troubled days cajoling people to stay at least 6 feet apart.
“We’re used to crowds, we’re used to lines, we’re used to being close together,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a briefing this week. “No more.”
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The no-more mandate has forced the New York Police Department - a squad that normally prides itself on protecting packed crowds like the ones at the Times Square New Year’s Eve celebration - into service dispersing small groups of people on city streets and public spaces.
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