'I can't wait to hug my family' - police chief on easing of Covid rules
- Credit: Archant
Our journey out of lockdown is well and truly on course, with step three of the roadmap given the green light by the prime minister.
Monday sees the most significant easing of lockdown restrictions yet, with everyday life beginning to reflect the reality we once knew, pre-March 2020.
This penultimate step in the government’s roadmap out of lockdown means the return of indoor gatherings of up to six people or two households, while up to 30 people can meet together outside.
Pubs, bars and restaurants will be able to welcome people inside - ironically, just as the weather starts to improve - and entertainment venues like cinemas and theatres will be able to open, subject to restrictions on numbers.
And, last but not least…hugging is back.
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I for one can’t wait to hug my family. This has been a long journey and an incredibly tough one for all of us, regardless of our personal circumstances.
Everyone has been affected in some way or another and it seems fitting in Mental Health Awareness Week that we will be able to enjoy more time with our loved ones.
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This global pandemic has not only threatened our physical health but mental health as well, with many people put under enormous strain in dealing with the fall-out of lockdown.
I have no doubt we’ve all had our personal battles in this time but I truly believe better days lie ahead. The continued easing of restrictions, alongside the vaccine roll-out, provides the clearest signal yet in these past 14 months that we can start to return to a near-normal life safely.
Policing has also adapted during the pandemic to make sure we continue to do our job of protecting the public, enforcing the Health Protection Regulations while keeping our staff as safe as we possibly can.
This task hasn’t been easy at times. However, I’m extremely proud of the way my colleagues across the county have responded and I know they’re keen to get back to business as usual.
We’ve always been here throughout the pandemic for those who have needed us most, but the further easing of restrictions makes our contact with the public that bit easier.
We will be out and about more in our communities, we will be visible and we will get back to that face-to-face engagement which is so important.
I was delighted to see the results of Operation Sceptre, the national week of action against knife crime, earlier this month.
The constabulary made a number of arrests in different parts of the county for possession of a knife offences and also drug offences. Officers used intelligence-led deployments as part of the ongoing work with partners to tackle knife-based criminality, and associated gang activity.
Other activity during the week included intelligence-led stop and searches, high-visibility patrols including at Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds train stations, in partnership with British Transport Police.
Schools liaison officers and community engagement officers also supported more than 19 events in schools and colleges, delivering information on knife crime, county lines and gangs to children, young people and teachers.
This included assemblies and classroom talks, with officers encouraging honest conversations around knife crime and to highlight to children and young people the dangers of carrying knives.
More than 250 knives and bladed items were also recovered from the knife surrender amnesty bins across the county, where people can dispose knives and blades safely.
It was a really productive dedicated week of action. I want to reiterate that if you are found illegally in possession of a knife you will be arrested, put before the court and brought to justice.
I’d now like to mention the Modern Slavery and Vulnerable Communities Team. It was established in October 2020 in response to the constabulary’s plans to increase resources within the Neighbourhood Partnership Teams to focus on a number of areas, including modern slavery.
The principle objective of the team is to support the constabulary in working with partners to protect vulnerable persons and communities, support frontline officers to be proactive in catching criminals whilst reassuring our communities and supporting vulnerable victims.
The team has been working closely with key partners to raise awareness of modern slavery across Suffolk. It also works with communities to build confidence and positive relationships between the police and public, to encourage reporting of concerns and offences, and to increase reassurance within our diverse communities.
The team is also working with the local authority in relation to safeguarding unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, supporting multi-agency campaigns to raise awareness of modern slavery and how to ‘spot the signs’, and working closely with key partners to develop and provide training to staff to spot what is often ‘hidden in plain sight’.
The team is actively involved in multi-agency days of actions to target the perpetrators of modern slavery and provide specialist advice and support to victims, reassuring them that there is help and support out there for victims.
Essential to the team’s response is the support of the public, who we actively encourage to report signs of exploitation either to the police or to partners.
Finally, congratulations to Tim Passmore who, following the recent police and crime commissioner elections, continues as PCC for another three years. I look forward to working with Tim and his team in keeping our county safe.