Blatant Covid-19 rule-breakers will face fines, police say
- Credit: Suffolk Constabulary
Blatant Covid-19 rule-breakers in Suffolk will face immediate fines as the force steps up its enforcement of coronavirus regulations.
Assistant Chief Constable Rob Jones said he believes the message and enforcement is working but stressed that the number of fines is now exceeding the number of warnings dished out by the force.
A total of 39 fines were handed by officers in Suffolk over the weekend, compared with six last weekend. People can be fined up to £200.
The force had previously issued 315 fixed penalty notices from March 27 to December 20, official figures from the NPCC (National Police Chiefs' Council) revealed.
ACC Jones said: "Reflecting from the weekend, I think the messages and the enforcement both worked and places were a lot quieter and people are really heeding it overall.
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"It can feel different when police are stopping people to talk to them, but that is likely to keep up over the next month or so, especially as the demand on our hospitals has become really severe.
"We have issued a lot more fines over the weekend than we have in previous weeks, so the number of fines is exceeding the number of warnings we're giving."
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ACC Jones said the force's approach to fining people has changed and people blatantly flouting rules will not necessarily get the chance of a warning.
"Where someone deliberately takes a chance and is caught having set out to stretch or break the rules, I think most times we would give them a fine straight away because the message is really clear now.
"If people keep doing that, it's dangerous so we have to take that enforcement more.
"I would say when we started we were probably fining people as a last resort, then we stepped to doing it when it was necessary but now we feel that necessity has become stronger because of the public health risk. So we're stepping to fines faster.
"So you won't necessarily get the opportunity for a warning."
The force has also seen an increase in calls to its control room regarding Covid breaches, as well as people asking for advice on guidance.
People are being encouraged to report Covid breaches via Suffolk police's online reporting tool.
"We've had over double the calls," ACC Jones added. "Probably one in 20 of calls for demand at the moment are about Covid, it's quite significant numbers for us.
"When people are expressing those concerns, depending on who's available and what the risk is, we'll go out and try to act on them but we can't be everywhere.
"But people do have to be tolerant. Some people will go out and walk their dogs and it might not be welcomed if you're living there but exercise is really important and as long as people keep it local, we're not, as things stand, discouraging that in any way."