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Callers reporting noncompliance with the statewide stay-at-home order are jamming Colorado Springs police's phone lines and affecting the department’s ability to respond to emergencies, a spokesman said Thursday.

Officers evaluate every call that comes in, said Sgt. Jason Newton, though the department’s priority remains responding to in-progress crimes and those in which people’s live are in immediate danger.

“It is impacting our ability to respond to 911 calls,” Newton said.

Newton is urging citizens with questions or concerns about the shelter-in-place order to visit the state’s website before calling the police to report noncompliance with the order or report to the El Paso County Health Department.

The order, which went into effect 6 a.m. Thursday, has not caused significant changes in the way the department is policing, Newton said.

At a press conference Thursday, Mayor John Suthers said police will issue warnings to those who are gathering in large groups and not obeying the stay-at-home orders. "And if someone resolutely refuses to comply with those warnings then it will be a subject of criminal prosecution," Suthers said, adding that he believes a "vast majority" of citizens were obeying the orders. 

Gov. Jared Polis announced the lockdown Wednesday as the coronavirus death toll jumped to 19 in Colorado. According to data from Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the total number of cases statewide rose to 1,086 — 122 in El Paso County.

Under the order, residents are required by law to leave their homes only for critical needs, Polis said. Essential activities include getting medical attention or medical supplies and grocery shopping.

Those exempt from the stay-in-place order include defense contractors, emergency services, medical services, pharmacies, grocery stores, truck drivers, farmers, child care workers and the media, Polis said.

Click here to read about what a shelter in place order means.

Reach Olivia at olivia.prentzel@gazette.com.

Twitter: @oliviaprentzel

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