Police & Crime Commissioner sets policy to “forget Engage, Encourage, Educate and focus on Enforcement” to “clamp down on Covid rule breakers”
The North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner says a new get tough approach is essential to crack down on Covid rule-breakers who are putting lives at risk.
Arfon Jones spoke out after “selfish” people flouted the regulations and flocked to beauty spots across the region.
Under the level four restrictions in place in Wales exercise should “start and finish from your home and you should exercise alone or with a member of your household or support bubble.”
In specific relation to exercise, the regulations say that no long journeys should be undertaken unless absolutely necessary.
Despite this, North Wales Police have been called out to the region’s beauty spots on countless occasions to deal with people driving from outside the area.
The issue was brought into sharp focus earlier this week when officers got stuck in the snow after coming to the aid of a man who skidded off the road whilst visiting Moel Famau from Ellesmere Port.
Over the weekend police in Flintshire had to issue a reminder after rule breakers were reported at Wepre Park and officers in the Wrexham area urged people not to travel to visit World’s End.
Car parks have also been closed at Snowdonia in a bid to deter visitors.
Please do not come for a drive to Worlds End. Exercise should start and finish from your home address and should not be driving to a location. Think of your actions- if you get into difficulties you are risking our emergency services. pic.twitter.com/zUsVRXOA1v
— NWP Wrexham Rural (@NWPWrexhamRural) January 9, 2021
Until now the police response has been guided by the so-called four Es, to engage and find out why the rules were being broken, explain the rules and rise, encourage people to behave responsibly and to only take enforcement action as a last resort.
The regulations allow for fixed penalty notices can be issued with fines ranging from £60 to £10,000.
According to Mr Jones, a former police inspector, it was now time for a tougher approach from the police and other agencies.
He said: “I would like to commend most people for behaving responsibly at this difficult time but those who choose not to can expect to be held to account.
“Unfortunately, there are far too many selfish people who are flouting the guidelines and they are turbo-charging the spread of this deadly virus.
“Their actions are totally irresponsible and life-threatening. If they have no regard for their own health, they should think of their loved ones.
“It is now time to forget the mantra of Engage, Encourage and Educate and focus on Enforcement so we can clamp down on the Covid rule breakers and prevent this reckless behaviour.
“The stay home and stay safe message is all more important because the new mutant strain of Covid-19 is even more infectious.
“This has inevitably ramped up the threat of community transmission, with 70 per cent of cases in North Wales linked the new variant.
“As a consequence, the people of North Wales are at risk like never before.
“Being a police officer can be a difficult and dangerous at the best of times but North Police is facing unprecedented challenges as a result of the pandemic.
“The last thing our officers need is for their time be wasted by selfish people who think they are above the law.
“It is totally unacceptable that our brave and selfless officers are themselves being put unnecessarily at risk as we have seen with examples of them getting stuck in the snow trying to come to the rescue of these foolish people.”
Last week Wrexham.com reported that Health Minister Vaughan Gething said that police forces have the Welsh Government’s support in taking a more “enforcement led approach” to dealing with those who deliberately ignore the coronavirus rules in place.
Speaking about those deliberately flouting the level four restrictions, Mr Gething said: “The rules and what is the right thing to do, aren’t a surprise now. We’ve been in this position for the best part of 10 months.
“I know that people that are doing their part are very frustrated with people who plainly aren’t, and I am deeply frustrated with people who are not doing the right thing and finding a way to justify to themselves why they don’t need to do the right thing.
“The law is there and in place for a reason, to keep all of us safe and there are penalties for those people who break the rules.
A Welsh Government spokesman reinforced the message, adding: “Cases of coronavirus are very high in Wales at the moment and there is a new strain of the virus circulating, which is highly infectious and moving quickly.
“At alert level four, exercise should always be undertaken from home, unless you have special circumstances which requires some flexibility – such as disability or autism.
“The more people gather, the greater the risk of spreading or catching the virus.”
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