Neighbors During Pandemic: The New Gestapo or Citizen Police?
While there is not any doubt there is a current pandemic, a new trend among people on social media is exploding. People looking outside of their windows are taking pictures of people to shame them over social distancing guidelines and even calling the police on their neighbors.
During WWII, German citizens would tip off the infamous Gestapo (the Nazi War Machine’s secret police) about Jews and other “non-desirables” in the area so that action would be taken against them. Here in the U.S., there are reports of concerned citizens calling the police on their neighbors if they are heard coughing. According to the Desert Sun, five cases were reported in a week from Palm Springs, California police. The police said they were not able to dismiss any calls as hysteria, and they had to investigate.
As many know, New York City happens to be one of the hardest-hit areas of the pandemic. This lent to its fair share of civilian policing. Some screenshots are taken from Facebook to outline people’s attitudes towards seeing their neighbors outside. This individual was so distraught that they called the police to investigate people playing in a park. Someone also took pictures of bystanders and was obviously upset. Their names and profiles are blurred to protect their identities.
In San Diego, CBS8 reported neighbors acting aggressively on a neighborhood app for not being far apart enough. Dr. Michael Lardon, a local psychiatrist, told the reporter, “People act out in many ways when they’re under extreme stress, and we all are under extreme stress now.” He went on to further say that a more passive approach might be the key to getting one’s point across.
The town Vinalhaven, Maine, was not exempt from the changes in people’s behavior either. A man left his home on March 27 after he noticed he did not have access to cable. As he approached the end of the road, he found a tree blocking his passage. When the man went to go check out what was wrong, a nearby resident armed with a gun yelled at him to return to his home. They feared that the man was exposed to the Coronavirus. When he got back, he called the local authorities and reported there to be several people with guns that cut down the tree to prevent him from leaving. The sheriff later issued a statement after their investigation, “”We are concerned that some believe that anyone from out of the state is potentially infected [with COVID-19] and needs to be quarantined. We want to bring to the public’s attention the matter of restricting a person’s movements within the state. Whether someone is a Maine resident or not, they have the right to free movement, and anyone who infringes upon that free movement is potentially violating the law.”
Kentucky, Governor Andy Beshear, ordered residents to stay indoors to circumvent the situation. Angela Bisig, a Jefferson Circuit Court judge, ruled that those who were exposed to the virus or diagnosed must wear an ankle bracelet with a GPS tracking system. ABC acknowledged that the ankle bracelets used were those typically found on someone on parole and that if there’s a failure to comply, one might be faced with criminal charges.
The United States’ social distancing guidelines were extended until April 30 by President Trump himself on March 29. He said during his press conference, “During this period, it’s very important that everyone strongly follow the guidelines. Have to follow the guidelines. Therefore, we will be extending our guidelines to April 30 to slow the spread.” It is important for people not to panic and to remember that even in this time of social distancing that we must come together. The social distancing guidelines were created to stop the spread of the virus, not generate a police-state where neighbors turn on each other.