The City of Boise suspended no business licenses during the first two weeks of its new enforcement of public health orders.
Since the enforcement began on November 23, the city received 75 calls for assistance from businesses to respond to customers not social distancing or wearing masks. Of those calls, only three resulted in citations for non-compliance from the Boise Police Department.
The City Clerk’s office has also conducted 51 business inspections after residents called in complaints. After those inspections, no licenses were suspended.
Open businesses is the goal
Mayor Lauren McLean told City Council on Tuesday the goal of the enforcement measures is to keep businesses open and slow the spread of COVID-19 at the same time.
“We’re doing this in partnership with businesses,” McLean said. “Our enforcement program was designed to keep business open so our economy can continue to function and we can continue to rebound.”
The city launched a dashboard where residents can see how many calls, inspections, citations and suspensions have been issued.
Businesses licensed by the City of Boise found to pose a “clear and immediate threat” to the health and welfare of the public may have their business license suspended for at least 10 days on the first violation, 20 days on the second violation, and a year revocation on the third.
‘Not trying to be heavy-handed’
Lynda Lowry, with the City of Boise, told City Council on Tuesday night the plan was not to shut down businesses without cause or go after residents indiscriminately.
“Some of the things we’re not doing is we’re not doing unsolicited checks of businesses or individuals, we’re not citing everyone we see without a mask or not social distancing and we’re not suspending licenses on minor violations,” she said. “Our overall goal here is compliance. We’re not trying to be heavy handed.”
City Council members applauded the city’s efforts to enforce the public health orders and the partnership from businesses who are working with the city to follow the order.
City Council President Elaine Clegg asked about response times from officers who get calls to assist businesses with COVID-19 related issues. Boise Police response to these calls came under scrutiny on social media last weekend when several businesses in downtown Boise reported a group of people visiting businesses without masks and harassing employees over the new orders.
“Is there a way so when that dispatcher who takes that call understands whether it’s one person or whether it’s an attempt to intimidate the business with a group so BPD can understand how to prioritize?” Clegg asked.
Lowry said response times vary depending on how business officers call and what other calls they have on their plates. For example, if a call for assistance from a business comes in at the same time as a domestic violence call, the officers have to respond to the domestic violence situation first.
But, she said the clerk’s office and Boise Police meets every day to go over the previous days calls and studying how to improve the processes for inspections and enforcement.