New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio urged residents Saturday to turn in neighbors who fail to follow social-distancing rules, encouraging them to text photos of violators and report their location to a government hotline.
He congratulated New Yorkers for being “extraordinary at social distancing” during the novel coronavirus crisis, but then said that “we still know there’s some people who need to get the message.”
“And that means sometimes making sure the enforcement is there to educate people and make clear, we’ve got to have social distancing,” said Mr. de Blasio in a video posted on social media.
He said New Yorkers can send texts to the city’s non-emergency 311 number or use the 311 app, “and action will ensue.”
“Now it is easier than ever. When you see a crowd, when you see a line that’s not distanced, when you see a supermarket that’s too crowded, anything, you can report it right away so we can get help there to fix the problem,” Mr. de Blasio said. “Now it’s a simple as taking a photo. All you got to do is take the photo and put the location with it, and bang, send a photo like this, and we will make sure that enforcement comes right away.”
He emphasized that turning in offenders was needed “to save lives” as the nation seeks to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, but it didn’t take long for critics on social media to accuse him of employing totalitarian tactics.
The Federalist’s David Marcus said that “now is not the time to start informing on each other,” given the city’s success in flattening the infection curve, accusing the mayor of seeking “soldiers in his dream socialist army, pointing fingers and getting a nice pat on the back from the powers that be.”
Journalist Alex Berenson sarcastically hailed the mayor’s “brave call for citizens to inform on each other.”
“With the city’s economy collapsing, Mayor de Blasio remains focused on what really matters. Attention citizens!” tweeted Mr. Berenson, a former New York Times reporter and author of “Tell Your Children: The Truth Behind Marijuana, Mental Illness and Violence” (2019).
New York has seen more cases of the novel coronavirus than any other U.S. state, and most of those infected have been in New York City, which had recorded 131,372 cases and 8,632 deaths as of Saturday, according to the New York Times count.
“Look, this is important,” Mr. de Blasio said. “I want to keep reminding people, it’s about saving lives. Sending that photo in is going to help make sure that people are kept apart, and that’s going to stop the disease from spreading, and that’s going to save lives.”
Two weeks ago, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo increased the maximum fine for violations of state social-distancing rules, which require people to keep six feet apart, from $500 to $1,000.