L.A. Mayor offering rewards to social distancing snitches

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is doing more this week than just modeling makeshift pandemic masks. Hizzoner is rapidly growing fed up with people who are not following his “Safer at Home” mandates and he wants the public’s help in dealing with these scofflaws. Of particular concern are the construction companies that are still working on nonessential projects as well as the ones who are building essential structures but not following safe workplace practices. During an announcement on Tuesday, the Mayor let people know that he would be very grateful for the help of concerned citizens willing to drop a dime on noncompliant businesses and that he planned to “reward” them for their snitching. (CBS Los Angeles, emphasis added)

Garcetti said that since the stay at home order was put in place, the city has been told about construction sites that have not been following the guidelines set out in that order…

Garcetti also used the Tuesday briefing to encourage people in the community to report businesses that continue to violate the order.

“If any non-essential businesses continue to operate in violation of the stay at home order, we’re going to act to enforce the safer at home order and ensure their compliance,” he said…

You know the old expression about snitches, well in this case snitches get rewards,” Garcetti said. “We want to thank you for turning folks in and making sure we are all safe.”

The problem is, the Mayor didn’t specify what the rewards are for ratting out your fellow Angelinos. Is there some sort of cash bounty being offered? A tax break? A free ticket to Disneyland, assuming it ever opens again? You may have to tattle on one of these construction companies to find out.

To help with that process, the city set up a special snitch on your neighbor form online. It asks for your name and all of the usual contact information, so you apparently can’t just report people anonymously. It then asks for all of the details about the alleged perpetrator of the social distancing violation you observed.

When I sat down to write about this curious story, I’ll confess that I wasn’t really sure how I felt about it. And even after poring through all of the details in the story, I’m still not sure. I definitely understand that these rules were put in place with the intention of saving lives and law enforcement can’t be everywhere at once. Also, this is Los Angeles we’re talking about here. The cops have more than enough on their plates already without investigating construction sites for social distancing violations.

But at the same time, are we really comfortable with ratting people out on this basis? As I think I’ve mentioned here before, one of the houses neighboring mine is the home of a younger couple in their late twenties or early thirties. They have an active social life and lately, they’ve been hosting parties at their house where there are definitely more than ten people packed in there.

I find it both alarming and worrisome. They are both young and healthy, as most of their friends appear to be. I get that people in that age group think they’re immortal. I did too back in the day. But they are friends of ours and I don’t want to see them get sick (or worse). Also, I worry that they and their friends could be going around exposing other, more vulnerable people. And yet it’s never crossed my mind once to seriously grab the phone or go online and report them. I’ve only gone as far as suggesting they make more of an effort at social distancing and they politely agreed to keep it in mind.

Am I the bad guy for not ratting them out? Would you do it? We’re sort of in uncharted territory here, so it’s tough to say. I mean, if I discovered that they had violently assaulted someone or were dealing heroin, I wouldn’t hesitate to contact the proper authorities. But to call the cops because they hosted a dinner party at their house? It just doesn’t sit right with me. Your mileage may vary.