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Pitkin County to start ticketing for blatant COVID violations

Law enforcement in Aspen, Snowmass, Basalt and Pitkin County are ready to hand out more tickets if people aren't following local public health orders.
Credit: Alex Hager / Aspen Public Radio
Pitkin County's virus rate is the worst in the state, nearly double that of the next highest county. Other counties with destination ski resorts – Eagle, Routt and San Miguel – are among the worst 15, but still pale in comparison to Pitkin County’s rates.

ASPEN, Colo. — In an effort to try to combat the highest COVID-19 incidence rate in the state, law enforcement officials in Pitkin County said Thursday they will introduce a stick to what has previously been a carrot-based approach to public health order enforcement.

Police in Aspen, Snowmass Village and Basalt, as well as county sheriff’s deputies, will now write misdemeanor tickets for egregious and blatant violations of local public health orders, such as large parties, law enforcement officials said.

“There’s some value in issuing a ticket on scene,” Aspen Assistant Police Chief Bill Linn said Thursday. “Sending a letter a week later that says ‘Don’t do it again,’ is not as clear as a ticket stuck in a hand the night it happens.”

Local law enforcement has been reluctant to write tickets for public health violations during the past 10 months of the pandemic, viewing it as heavy-handed and challenging from a legal and policy standpoint. However, that approach has led to frustration from many in the community who believe public health orders could be flouted by those who don’t respect them without consequence.

But now that Pitkin County is a hotspot with the highest incidence rate of COVID-19 in the state and the county Board of Health decided to close indoor dining at restaurants last week to combat it, that thinking has changed, law enforcement officials said.

>Read the full story at the Aspen Times.

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