Avon and Somerset Police are establishing a dedicated COVID-19 team to attend reports of breaches of the emergency regulations.
It is being created from the extra funding provided by the Government, dedicated to our COVID-19 response.
The intention of the team is to provide reassurance to those communities who adhere to the regulations, but also to help enforce when individuals flout the rules and place their communities at greater risk of the virus.
The team was launched yesterday (Monday 26 October) and will be reacting quickly to incidents called in by the public and patrol areas highlighted by partner agencies and our own intelligence that present a threat to public health.
Assistant Chief Constable Nikki Watson said: “We are fortunate the number of COVID-19 cases in the South West are not as high as some other parts of the UK, but they are rising and we cannot afford to be complacent.
“The national lockdown in March and April meant demand for non-COVID police matters dropped and it freed up resourcing for us to have more officers out on the streets, working with our communities to help defeat the virus.
“However, the situation is different six months on, as demand for police attendance has increased to pre-lockdown levels. Officers have responded magnificently, but combining traditional policing priorities with additional COVID-19 work is a challenge for forces across the country.
“By creating this dedicated team, it will enable those officers to concentrate on dealing with reports coming in and proactively police areas where problems have previously occurred.”
Response and neighbourhood officers will continue to enforce COVID-19 rules where necessary, but the new team will allow us to maintain a high level of service to our expected seasonal demand.
We have dedicated resources in the control room and in our communities across the force who will respond to the breaches of COVID-19 regulations reported to police, either online or via 101. Our teams will be dedicated to this response seven days a week. They also have the flexibility to respond across the force to the areas of greatest threat, reported to us from the public, identified through our wider data and intelligence review or reported to us by our partner agencies in our force area.
The team will be resourced through additional Government funding for police forces to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and by offering officers overtime. Approximately £680,000 has been granted to Avon and Somerset Police to fund our COVID team. The money will also be used to fund electric bikes for those officers when on patrol and additional police cars in a distinctive livery you will see, visible in your local area.
ACC Nikki Watson said: “Our approach to policing COVID-19 breaches and issuing fines will not change. This team will continue to use our 4Es strategy to engage, explain and encourage people to following the guidance and adhere to the legislation when out and about.
“Enforcement remains our last resort, however we’re six months into this pandemic now and officers will issue fixed penalty notices when people refuse to comply or blatantly breach the regulations.”
“We’re grateful the overwhelming majority of people recognise the seriousness of the situation and are playing their part by complying with the restrictions. We want to continue working with our communities over what is likely to be a testing few months for everyone.”Assistant Chief Constable Nikki Watson
Since lockdown was introduced in March, Avon and Somerset Police have issued 413 fixed penalty notices, including 37 since the start of October.
Police and local councils will continue to coordinate enforcement action depending who has the most appropriate power to deal with the breach.
PCC Sue Mountstevens added: “While cases remain relatively low in the south west, we have seen numbers increase quite sharply in some parts of Avon and Somerset. Now is not the time to be indifferent; we must all follow the Government regulations to prevent any further rise in cases and avoid our area from having further restrictions introduced.
“This dedicated policing team will support local people and work with communities to ensure residents understand and are adhering to regulations that aims to lower the transmission rates of the virus.”
Ongoing COVID-19 breaches can be reported to police on 101. Information about previous issues can be provided through our online COVID form.