West Suffolk police commander's warning to those who continue to flout coronavirus lockdown rules
West Suffolk’s police commander has warned those who continue to flout the coronavirus lockdown rules face ‘robust’ action.
Superintendent Kim Warner said that while officers would only use their new powers ‘as a last resort’, they were not afraid to implement them to crack down on ‘particularly stubborn members of the public’.
Under legislation which came into effect last Thursday, police can issue a £60 fine and £120 for second time culprits, doubling on each repeat offence.
Those who refuse to pay the fine could face court action and if an individual continues to refuse to comply, police can arrest them.
Supt Warner, western area commander, said: “I’m very keen that my officers use their powers of negotiation and communication to persuade the public to do the right thing.
“My key message is one about reassurance. It’s so important the public understand why the Government has put those measures in place and that they’re complying with the restrictions to protect them, their family and the wider public.
“The police are there to provide that reassurance but also to challenge and ask questions as to why are you out in a public space, what are you doing and is it essential?
“It’s important the public understand that if we need to be robust we will do that.”
In an interview with the Bury Free Press on Monday, Supt Warner said they had not yet had to issue fines but officers were maintaining a ‘high visibility’ and the police force was ‘still very much open for business’.
“We’re not retreating into police stations,” he said. “It’s quite the reverse. We’re still responding to calls, we’re still dealing with crimes, particularly if there’s a high threat or risk associated with them. We’ve got to think about some of the lower risk activities we previously may have done and some of those may not get the same degree of policing response they might have done in the past.”
During the crisis, the amount of overall crime is ‘falling’ but Supt Warner said there were some ‘nuances’.
Although burglary was down, robberies on commercial premises had increased slightly with three incidents at shops in Bury St Edmunds last week.
A man has been arrested and charged in connection with one of the robberies.
“My message in relation to anyone committing those offences is, we will identify suspects, we will arrest them, you will be put before a court and face the consequences irrespective of coronavirus,” he said.
The Tavern pub, in St John’s Street, suffered a break-in on Sunday, March 22, with concerns more empty premises could be targeted during the lockdown.
Supt Warner said: “At the moment we’re not seeing a huge increase of business premises being targeted but I understand people will feel somewhat vulnerable because they are vacant.
“They need to be satisfied themselves they’ve got the right security measures in place because, whilst we’ve got a significant increase in terms of our visibility, we can’t be every where all the time. They can, of course, talk to us and seek advice about security measures.”
A ‘very small number’ of officers have had to self isolate because they or family members have shown symptoms but the force ‘absolutely have enough officers to continue to deliver an excellent quality of service’.
There are contingency plans should there be a higher ratio of sickness.
Supt Warner added: “I’m confident the general population understand the severity of what’s going on. I’m also confident my officers will have those honest conversations and be supportive but robust about the fact their journey outside the house has to be essential.”
More by this authorPaul Derrick