SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Santa Barbara will now use police officers to help educate and enforce mask-wearing in downtown areas where distancing is not possible.
In extreme cases, officers can now give tickets to people who refuse to comply, though city leaders say this will be a "last resort."
The change was made official late Tuesday, when Santa Barbara City Council approved a new mask education and enforcement motion.
Even outdoors, mask-wearing is required by the state when physical distancing is not possible.
When bigger crowds flock to the downtown area on the weekends, downtown ambassadors have been offering free masks to anyone who needs one. Police officers will now do the same along State Street.
“With that presence and that badge comes a little bit more authority and they’ll be able to do a really good thing," said Rob Dayton, the city's Transportation, Planning and Parking Manager. “And really say ‘Hey, we’re here to protect people. We’re here to see that everyone’s protected in this health crisis.’ So we think it’s gonna be a really positive step.”
Dayton says mask-wearing compliance on the weekends has already increased to about 90 percent, up from about 60 percent earlier this month.
“As a last resort, maybe we do get to the point where we have to, you know, write a ticket for [refusing to wear a mask],” Dayton said. “But at first, it’s more about education with authority, to say ‘Hey, this is really important.’”
Some think writing a ticket for not wearing a mask is heavy-handed and unnecessary, though several people walking on State Street Wednesday thought the policy was a good idea to encourage more mask-wearing and potentially slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Police officers will begin to add extra enforcement along State Street this Friday and through the upcoming weekend.
The city does not yet have an exact fine amount or specific protocol in place for citations that could be handed out.