University of Delaware students had not even started classes yet when the Newark Police Department issued its first citations under the new law limiting private gatherings.

Officers busted a party where 75 people were gathered in a backyard – well in excess of the 20-person cap on outdoor gatherings, according to Lt. Andrew Rubin, a spokesman for the Newark Police Department.

Police were called to the house on Annabelle Street around 12:45 a.m. Monday for a report of a loud party. After discovering the large crowd, they knocked on the door and talked with the hosts of the party.

The three hosts were cited for having an unlawful social gathering. If convicted, they will be fined $100 to $500 and be ordered to complete up to 20 hours of community service.

They will also be referred to UD’s office of student conduct and could face additional sanctions, including suspension or expulsion.

The law, which took effect Aug. 24, is intended to prevent large gatherings that could facilitate the spread of the coronavirus.

Under the ordinance, parties and other gatherings at private residences are limited to 12 people indoors or 20 people outdoors. The limit includes residents of the property but excludes kids 16 and younger – a concession aimed at limiting the burden on families.

The city will allow residents to apply for a permit to hold a larger gathering, with approval based on the size of the residence and adherence to social distancing guidelines.

The law allows police to cite not just the hosts, but each attendee of the gathering as well. Rubin said it is NPD’s intention to do so, but on Monday, the department lacked the manpower to detain and cite all 75 people.

“We have to balance the emergency at hand with other calls that are pending,” Rubin explained. “When the cops come, people scatter. We’re not getting in foot pursuits with people over social gatherings. We had the most culpable individuals.”

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