ROCHESTER - Rochester Police said on Tuesday that any arrests arising out of noncompliance with the state's mask mandate will likely be in the form of trespassing or disturbing the peace complaints, which in most circumstances are violation-level offenses.
Rochester Police Capt. Todd Pinkham made the comments in the wake of Monday's press release from the state Attorney General's Office that urged retailers and supermarkets to call police in the event a customer refused to don a mask upon request from store personnel.
Pinkham stressed that since the pandemic began last March "We have only gotten a few calls for circumstances like that and we've never had to enforce anything."
Specific guidance from Assistant Attorney General Anne M. Edwards on Monday stated that, "If a customer refuses to wear a mask without a reason that fits within one of the exceptions in Emergency Order 74, do not have your staff engage further with the customer after the refusals. Instead call local law enforcement for assistance."
Pinkham said police expect to be handling any complaints on a "case by case basis."
"There could be more involved than the mask, itself," he said on Monday. "It could be a disturbance or a trespassing issue if the person is asked to leave."
Before retail or supermarket personnel call police they are expected to ask those who refuse why they object to wearing a mask. If they say they have a medical condition, store personnel are told to stand down and allow the individual to shop with no further abeyance.
If they do not invoke the medical exemption, store personnel are urged to call law enforcement.
Once they refuse to leave after being told to by personnel they could be summonsed for trespassing, Pinkham said, which is normally a violation that can carry a fine.
If they refuse to leave it could evolve into a disturbing the peace complaint.
Store personnel could also opt to have the recalcitrant individual "trespassed," which means they wouldn't be allowed in the store anymore.
"If it becomes a disturbance or other situation that makes them feel unsafe, it could lead to an arrest," Pinkham said. "The analogy is when it says on the window, 'No shirt, no shoes, no service.'"
If an individual is "trespassed" and returns the offense could rise to a Class B misdemeanor, which carries no jail time but can result in up to a $1,200 fine.
Meanwhile, DHHS announced 842 new positive test results for COVID-19 on Tuesday for a current PCR test positivity rate of 5.3 percent. The newly identified cases include 86 minors and 82 from Strafford County.
Local case counts include 216 in Dover, 126 in Rochester, 71 in Somersworth, 26 in Barrington, 25 in Milton, 23 in Farmington and 13 in Strafford.
DHHS has also announced nine additional deaths related to COVID-19, including a Strafford County woman and all over 60.
NH COVID-19 Summary Report
NH Persons with COVID-19 53,148
Recovered 46,031 (87%)
Deaths Attributed to COVID-19 878 (2%)
Total Current COVID-19 Cases 6,239
Current Hospitalizations 287