Social media proves a powerful tool in cracking down on quarantine violators

Updated: May. 20, 2020 at 5:29 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - State lawmakers are pushing for tougher enforcement of the 14-day traveler quarantine, which has been extended through June 30.

And during the state Senate Special Committee on COVID-19 meeting on Tuesday, law enforcement leaders detailed recent changes made to crack down on violators.

Despite pressure to ease overcrowding in jails, judges have agreed not to release people arrested for quarantine violations unless they post bail.

Bail is also a little higher than other misdemeanors — at $2,000.

“$2,000 has been established as a reasonable bail because of the fact that they’ve already shown that they’re not following the rules,” said Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard.

Law enforcement officials, meanwhile, continue to look for ways to close loopholes and catch violators.

“If they do post bail and don’t have conditions to stay in their designated quarantine location ... we’ve escorted them to the airport and they’ve flown away,” said Hawaii Attorney General Clare Connors.

Since Saturday, arriving visitors have no longer been allowed to leave the airport unless they have a return ticket. They must also indicate how many nights they’re staying.

Honolulu police have arrested seven people for quarantine violations.

Officers can choose to warn, cite, or arrest violators depending on the circumstances and the evidence.

"That's what the public doesn't understand, they think that if they report a quarantine violation, the officer is going to come and take them away in handcuffs, and that's not necessarily true," said Ballard.

The lawmakers also heard from a new Facebook Group called Hawaii Quarantine Kapu Breakers. Volunteers provide tips which are verified and developed, then given to an investigator from the Attorney General’s Office.

“The leads are coming in through hotel workers and then on social media,” said member Jeanne Viggiano. “Social media has been a huge help in finding out where these people are and where they’re staying.”

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