A new team established by Avon and Somerset Police will focus on enforcing emergency measures to limit the spread of coronavirus.
Assistant chief constable Nikki Watson says combining traditional policing priorities with additional Covid-19 work is a challenge for forces across the country against a backdrop of a second wave, while crime has returned to pre-lockdown levels.
The government has allocated £680,000 to fund the dedicated officers, who – as of Monday, October 26 – are out in communities in special cars and on electric bikes to provide reassurance and deal with any breaches of the rules.
It comes as Bristol has shifted into its own ‘tier 1+’ category amid concern about a rising tide of coronavirus cases.
Read more: Bristol is now in tier 1+ Covid category
Speaking about the new team, ACC Watson said there will still be an emphasis on engaging with people and encouraging them to comply with the rules, but police will be stepping up enforcement where necessary.
“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,” said ACC Watson.
“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.”
ACC Watson issued a message of thanks to the “overwhelming majority” adhering to the rules and said police want to continue working with communities during “testing times” ahead.
Bristol City Council is also employing eight full-time Covid marshals, who will play a largely supportive role, focused on issuing guidance to people and businesses and signposting members of the public to information.
Funded by additional money allocated by the government, the marshals are expected to be on the streets within a week. They will work mostly in areas where they are most needed – such as Gloucester Road, which has a high footfall and large number of pubs and bars – and at the times when the risk of spreading the virus is highest – which, according to data, is on weekends and evenings.
Since lockdown was introduced in March, Avon and Somerset Police have issued 413 fixed penalty notices, including 37 since the start of October.
Main photo by Martin Booth