Police issue message to all Sussex residents ahead of Easter weekend

The Deputy Chief Constable of Sussex Police has urged residents to stay at home during the Easter weekend in a bid to save lives.

Jo Shiner said the force is 'well resourced' as it prepares to enter a long Bank Holiday weekend which health experts have said comes at a key time as the nation attempts to combat Covid-19.

DCC Shiner thanked the 'vast majority' of the public who have so far listened to the government's advice and stayed at home to help take the pressure off the NHS and stop the spread of the virus.

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However, she reminded people to only leave their homes if it is for one of the four reasons the government has outlined. These include: exercise; shopping for food; medical needs; and to travel to work if they cannot work from home.

Picture: Sussex Police

She said last weekend officers dealt with a number of people who were not obeying the rules or were not exercising 'within the spirit'.

She added: "One thing that was raised last weekend was whether people could take a break on benches. The point is a common sense one. It's not about whether or not you can but more about who sat their previously. How do you know the person isn't Covid positive? How do you know you're not making yourself vulnerable, making others vulnerable?

"It's not an exact science which is why we’re asking people to think about whether their actions are likely to exacerbate the spread. We are urging people to consider whether what they're doing is in line with the government advice."

DCC Shiner confirmed no arrests have been made in Sussex in direct relation to breaches of the new social distancing measures. However, she said, on some occasions, officers have been notified of a potential breach of the regulations but when they investigated they found the activity being carried out was illegal in itself, rather than a breach of the new rules.

She said a 'handful of people' have been fined for breaches of the regulations but could not provide an exact figure.

Sussex Police has recently issued dispersal orders in Eastbourne, Hastings, Seaford and Crawley to prevent large gatherings in 'hot spot areas' and said officers will continue to use these full range of powers where needed, particularly this weekend.

DCC Shiner said there are not any plans for road blocks or extra patrols on the key roads into the county this weekend, but she urged people to make 'common sense decisions' when it came to travel.

"Enforcement is the last resort for our officers," she added.

"These are truly unprecedented times for people and we will be explaining to them why it is important they make the right decisions."

DCC Shiner said some officers have been required to self isolate since the coronavirus outbreak started, but confirmed the force was 'in a good place' in terms of staff numbers, adding officers on the front line were being 'ably assisted' by special constables and volunteers.

She said: “We remain well-resourced and are still dealing with all types of crime, continuing to police our roads and tackle criminality in the community. As ever, our plea is for everyone to do the right thing this weekend, stay home, save lives and protect the NHS.

"Our officers and PCSOs will continue to engage with people and explain what the government guidance is and why it has been put in place. We want to encourage people to do the right thing in following that guidance and only where absolutely necessary will our officers take enforcement action.

"Our officers are working in a more visible and agile way, patrolling our communities as they would usually do but also being responsive to reports we receive from the public regarding any areas where people may be gathering against the current guidelines.

"Above all, it is for people to make the right choices to help save lives and slow down the spread of the virus.”

DCC Shiner said officers were especially concerned for the most vulnerable in our communities, including victims of domestic abuse.

“While we are not seeing a rise in domestic abuse crimes, we are receiving more calls to domestic incidents such as arguing," she added.

"We continue to work with support services to ensure that we are able to respond and support people if they call and need help. People subject to violence or coercion behind closed doors, children vulnerable to online abuse; people vulnerable to exploitation be in no doubt – we are there for you. Contact us and we will be there.”

With the lockdown, Sussex Police said overall crime has reduced but despite the government’s measures to keep people safe, there has been an increase in the number of people spitting or coughing at others and claiming to be infected by coronavirus.

There were seven reports last week, with three of these being against police officers and staff. In addition there has been an increase in anti-social behaviour with a large portion being coronavirus-related.

Police have also seen a dramatic reduction in the number of vehicles on the road, however continue to receive reports of vehicles travelling in excess of the speed limit. Roads policing units will continue to disrupt this and any other criminality.

With more officers, including Special Constables, redeployed to visible policing, as well as additional PCSOs, communities will continue to see a reassuring presence over the weekend. An additional 62 new officers will be deployed into local communities in May having completed their essential training in a much shorter period.

DCC Shiner added: “Once again I would like to thank the public in Sussex for assisting us by staying at home to protect the NHS and save lives.”

Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne said: "This weekend is when many families would normally be setting off on holiday or gathering with family and friends to mark Easter so it will be especially frustrating for us all to stay at home and stick to the social distancing guidance…but we must if we are to make our earlier efforts worthwhile.

"In Sussex and other counties, the public have largely made sensible decisions about non-essential travel and avoiding gatherings and public feedback is showing that most of us understand the need to stick to these measures.

"Police officers will be very visible around the county over the Easter period to gently remind people not to gather or linger in public spaces.

"If we can all stay at home we can reduce the risk to other people and ourselves and we can avoid putting unnecessary demands on officers."