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Baltimore officials will enforce coronavirus closures and scale back city services

Police Commissioner Michael Harrison, left, with Mayor Bernard C. "Jack" Young, said they would be making changes to police and city services in order to enforce Gov. Larry Hogan's order that nonessential businesses close to slow the spread of coronavirus.
Police Commissioner Michael Harrison, left, with Mayor Bernard C. "Jack" Young, said they would be making changes to police and city services in order to enforce Gov. Larry Hogan's order that nonessential businesses close to slow the spread of coronavirus.(Amy Davis)

Baltimore officials pledged to strictly enforce Gov. Larry Hogan’s latest executive order Monday barring nonessential businesses from operating to limit the spread of the new coronavirus, while scaling back other city services to comply with the order.

During a news conference in front of City Hall, Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said his department has already been enforcing a previous executive order from Hogan barring a more limited group of businesses including bars, restaurants and gyms from operating.

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The department will make further adjustments — such as increasing staffing for the effort — to enforce the latest order which goes into effect Monday at 5 p.m., Harrison said. The Maryland National Guard will assist with “humanitarian efforts” such as distributing food, he said.

However, Baltimore Police remain in charge, Harrison emphasized.

“Let me be very clear, the Baltimore Police Department continues to enforce the laws in our city,” he said.

Some police calls, however, will be higher priorities than others. Police are “assessing and evaluating” which calls should get a police response, Harrison said, encouraging city residents with less urgent issues, such as minor fender benders and noise complaints, to use the city’s 311 system or file an online police report.

Baltimore City had 31 cases of the new coronavirus, as of Monday, and there were 288 confirmed cases across the state.

Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young ordered a local State of Emergency last week, giving the city to the power to make emergency procurements related to the pandemic. The city has also temporarily halted evictions, relaxed parking restrictions and delayed its annual tax sale.

Further restrictions on city services were announced Monday including the suspension of fees and enforcement at all city parking meters and a temporary stay on enforcement of residential permit parking. Parking officers will instead focus on citing parking violations that are safety or pedestrian issues, according to a news release from Young.

Vehicle towing operations will also be scaled back, according to the news release, and focus on immediate safety concerns.

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Within the city’s Department of Public Works, street and alley cleaning have been canceled, and the city’s water billing call center and walk-in office have been closed. Nonessential construction projects that are not federally funded have been halted.

Trash and recycling pickups remain on schedule, city officials said.

Additionally, the Baltimore Municipal and Zoning Appeals office has suspended all operations. No new appeals will be accepted and all April hearings have been suspended until further notice.

Staff reporter Talia Richman contributed to this story.

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