Since much of its normal work involved serving and executing orders from city and state agencies, including many that are now handling coronavirus restrictions, pandemic enforcement fell right into the purview of the sheriff’s office, said its head, Sheriff Joseph Fucito in a phone interview this week.
“We were naturally the appropriate enforcement arm for these things,” said Sheriff Fucito.
A City Hall spokesman said that enforcement for businesses in high-infection areas is coordinated by the Office of Special Enforcement, a multiagency unit that uses inspectors from 13 different city agencies.
In New York State, most sheriffs are elected, but in the city, the mayor appoints the sheriff, and Mayor Bill de Blasio chose Sheriff Fucito in 2014. A Bronx native and the son of a police captain, Mr. Fucito joined the sheriff’s department at age 18 and rose through the ranks.
The mayor has lavished credit on Sheriff Fucito and his office at news conferences in recent months. “You know a lot of New Yorkers before the pandemic didn’t know a lot about the Sheriff’s Office but they have been heroes throughout these last six months,” Mr. de Blasio said at an August press briefing.
Sheriff Fucito said that since August 5, his deputies have stopped some 9,300 vehicles entering the city at checkpoints to inquire about their travel origin and plans and to inform drivers and passengers of quarantine regulations.
Also, he said, they have distributed some 62,000 masks during the pandemic.
The Department of Health also relies upon the sheriff’s office to serve orders on businesses that disobey guidelines, said Sheriff Fucito, adding that in the past month his office has served roughly 80 health orders, often sending them to homes or hotel rooms to make sure people are following mandatory quarantine orders. By comparison, before the pandemic, months could pass with little to no health orders to serve.