New Jersey Attorney-General Gurbir Grewal has said that his office has received 1,400 complaints of blackmarketing by 900 businesses as the state grapples with a shortage of everyday needs and warned that there would be crackdown.
He issued a stern warning to those taking advantages of shortages at a news conference in state capital Trenton on Monday.
He said, "Surgical masks, sanitizer, wipes, food, and bottled water are items people have been price gouging."
"We will remain vigilant," he said.
Many stores sport empty shelves meant for essential goods as people have been hoarding them.
The small state with a population of under nine million has recorded 2,844 coronavirus with seven deaths.
Grewal said that law enforcement would crack down on those violating the semi-lockdown imposed by Governor Phil Murphy requiring non-essential businesses and offices to shut down or end onsite work, restricting restaurants to deliveries and takeouts and banning large gathering.
He said, "Violation of stay-at-home order will have consequences. If you throw a party and violate the order, police officers will show up, shut it down and issue violations (citations).a
"If you're a retail store or entertainment center and stay open, this is your final warning, you will be held accountable," he added.
He said that in consultation with the judiciary, civil rights groups, police and prosecutors it has been decided to release 1,000 prisoners who are low-level offenders in order to reduce contagion from overcrowding.
Grewal, who wears a turban, said he would be cracking down on bias offenses amid reports of attacks on people of Chinese origin or people who look like them.
He said, "Covid-19 is no excuse for tolerance or hate. There have been reports of harassment.A We can't let Covid-19 lead to stereotyping or bias. No one community is more at risk for contracting or spreading the virus."