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Social distancing violations? Racine says, Call Crime Stoppers

Empower Wisconsin | May 25, 2020

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON — Crime Stoppers has long been the community tip line to report thefts, burglaries, assaults, and other criminal activity.

It’s now being employed in Racine for neighbors to inform on neighbors who fail to follow the city’s constitutionally suspect social-distancing orders.

“(E)nforcement concerns and complaints can be forwarded through City of Racine Crime Stoppers by telephone (1-888-636-9330), text message [RACS to 274637(crimes)] or website (www.racine.crimestoppersweb.com),” states Forward Racine, the city’s new standards to reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Racine is among several Wisconsin cities and counties creating their own public health emergency orders in the wake of the state Supreme Court’s ruling that struck down the Evers administration’s statewide lockdown. Like fellow liberal cities Madison and Milwaukee, Racine’s glacially slow reopening plan closely resembles Gov. Tony Evers’ unworkable Badger Bounce Back initiative. Its stern quarantine measures questionably draw on state statutes that note local health officers “shall promptly take all measures necessary to prevent, suppress, and control communicable diseases.”

The local orders are all premised on “broad authority and power” that would seem to defy the Supreme Court’s ruling and basic constitutional rights.

But Racine is charging forward with its Forward Racine plan, constitution be damned, even as city health officials acknowledge that there is “no guidebook informing communities on how to eliminate this threat to the public.” They insist strict social-distancing and gradually, ever so gradually, reopening the economy and community life is the best way to limit the spread.

And despite legal opinions to the contrary, Racine seems to justify criminalizing such crimes as playing basketball, soccer or softball in the park, or taking the pups to the city’s dog parks. According to the Forward Racine plan, such fun in the sun is considered “high-risk,” prohibited even after the start of the city’s slow reopening on Tuesday. When will Racine residents be able to engage in these once-benign activities again without being placed on the city’s Most Wanted List? Possibly June 30, but that is to be determined.

The same goes for outdoor playgrounds, skateboard parks, and splash pads.

Swimming pools will be allowed to open — to 10 people, if social distancing of six feet can be maintained.

Low-risk activities include walking, bicycle riding, tennis, and pickle ball. Look for the governor, an avid pickle ball fan, to haunt Racine’s courts with the First Lady.

Businesses will still be significantly limited, according to the reopening plan. Bars and restaurants, among the hardest hit businesses during the lockdowns, will be able to serve at 50 percent capacity — if everyone sits at least six feet away form each other.

If they don’t, well, it looks like that’s where the Crime Stoppers tip line comes in. The only question is, will Racine have enough jail space for the “criminals” who don’t follow the draconian Forward Racine order?

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