The Winnipeg Police Service said it will begin enhanced enforcement of public health orders in the city.

The police service announced Wednesday morning that it has started triaging calls from the public with regards to gathering sizes in private residences, and will send officers when required.

“The Winnipeg Police Service’s response is intended to ensure the safety and the well-being of the public, and we will continue to remind people of the measures that they can take to ensure their own safety,” Const. Rob Carver said.

Gathering sizes in Winnipeg for both public and private gatherings have been limited to five people, in addition to the household.

For individuals who breach the orders, a fine of $1,296 can be handed out, with police saying it is the second-highest penalty of its kind in Canada.

The triage process for calls will focus on the nature of the call, the time, and if it is an urgent public safety concern.

“If a neighbour notices a gathering at a place next to theirs and they call, are we going to send out officers at 2 in the morning, where really the underlying issue is they maybe felt the party was too loud?” Carver said. “We need to look at a lot of factors before we devote police resources to this, not to suggest that those aren’t public health concerns, but we want to make sure that they represent an actual public health concern where the best response would be uniformed officers.”

Premier Brian Pallister said on Monday he wants to see increased enforcement of public health orders in the province, saying the number of tickets handed out so far is too low. As of Oct. 25, the province said 93 tickets were issued for violating public health orders.

Carver said police are asking residents to use 311 to call if they see breaches of the orders, and not call the police service’s non-emergency line. Carver added 311 will be available at nights, weekends and overnight to report violations.

“We’re using 311 as a hub, as it is just a better way of dispensing resources or allocating resources,” he said. “It may not just be Winnipeg Police.” 

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman said he supports additional enforcement of public health orders, where it can be effective and targeted.

“That is the discussions we have been having with the province, how can we target our activities,” Bowman said. “There will be implications on other responsibilities of the officials. I expect we’ll be open and transparent on how other services may not be met in as timely of a fashion, but we all have to do our part right now, and we’re looking to do just that.”