Flossmoor police dispersed a group of teens who gathered at Homewood-Flossmoor High School Wednesday, according to Chief Tod Kamleiter.
The size of the group exceeded Gov. JB Pritzker’s mandate that no more than 10 people gather in any one space, to prevent spreading the COVID-19 virus.
The students were playing football and soccer, Kamleiter said, and dispersed when directed to by police and H-F High School security staff. Afterward, school staff members locked down the football stadium area and taped off the practice field.
“I knew (Wednesday) was going to be a challenge because it was the nicest day so far this year, so we were on alert and responded to several groups around the village,” Kamleiter said.
Both Flossmoor and Homewood police departments are following guidance from the governor’s office regarding the enforcement of COVID-19 precautions.
Kamleiter said officers on patrol stop when they see a group of people together, to explain why they need to disperse.
“We’ve had some complaints about public space usage,” he said. “We’re taking it on a case-by-case basis. We’ve addressed it individually with the groups and we’ve had success.”
Homewood Police Department responded to questions about its policy on breaking up gatherings through a statement sent by village Marketing Director Jennifer Quirke.
The statement said when officers respond to instances of gatherings of more than 10, they try to educate those involved about social distancing. The statement asks residents to take personal responsibility for adhering to guidance about gatherings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The village also urges parents to emphasize the importance of social distancing to their children when outside,” it said. “The police department is doing its part to educate people in the parks, but everyone needs to do their part to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
Homewood’s statement also said the village has received several reports of small gatherings of fewer than 10 people, such as two people walking on a trail, which is allowed.
Flossmoor police officers continue to monitor the high school property, along with parks and playgrounds in town, Kamleiter said. The department worked with H-F Park District staff to place signs at playgrounds reminding visitors they are off-limits.
“We noticed some families had children playing on the equipment,” he said. “Not maliciously, of course; they just didn’t realize the playground was closed even though the rest of the park was open. They were asked to cease, and they did.”
Kamleiter said the biggest problem they’ve encountered was the group of teenagers playing contact sports at the high school.
Officers continue to rely on public education and community relations as their best tools for getting people to stay home and avoid gathering.
“I don’t know what we can do beyond public education and parents telling their kids not to gather,” Kamleiter said. “I certainly don’t want it to be an arrest situation. That’s the last thing we want to do.”