The Chief Constable of Kent Police has thanked the public for their co-operation but urged against complacency in the ongoing fight against Covid-19.
Legislation, introduced under the Coronavirus Act, gives police the ability to fine or arrest people who fail to comply with the Government's directions to stay at home, an enforcement tactic which will only be used as a last resort in Kent.
Chief Constable Alan Pughsley said officers are patrolling the streets to ensure the directions are being adhered to, and will continue to do so with warm weather predicted this weekend and into the Easter holidays.
He told SFM News that: "The vast majority of people in Kent have been brilliant and are doing exactly as they have been asked to do by the Government, which is to stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives. A minority have chosen not to, and on these occasions my officers have been engaging with them, explaining why the restrictions are necessary and encouraging them to comply. Enforcement will only be used as a last resort and I hope this will be rarely necessary because it will show that people are listening to what my officers are telling them. It is however so important that we all continue to stay at home unless for one of the few clear reasons outlined by the Government. This is a national health emergency the likes of which most of us have never experienced before and hopefully never will again, but if we all do as we are instructed then the quicker we hope our lives can all go back to normal."
Kent Police has experienced a 29% reduction in reported crime since the introduction of regulations to prevent the spread of Covid-19, with 1,254 fewer offences between 17th and 24th March than in the same period last year. While most crime types have reduced, officers are anticipating a rise in reports of domestic abuse, fraud and online abuse.
Mr Pughsley went on to add: "While we have a key role to play in ensuring people adhere to safe distance regulations, our day-to-day police work does not stop and we remain committed to tackling and preventing crime, targeting the most dangerous members of our society and protecting those who are most vulnerable. Our absence rate for staff and officers currently stands at about 11% but our ability to continue with business as usual has not been unduly affected. Vulnerable people and victims of crime can therefore rest assured that we are still here for them, while those intent on causing them harm can also be assured that they will be arrested and brought to justice. We have plans in place to cope should we experience a significant reduction in the number of available officers, including asking people who have recently left the force such as retired officers, Special Constables and volunteers to return. I am determined that we continue to provide the people of Kent with the very best service possible, no matter what.'
Finally, Mr Pughsley expressed his thanks and admiration for the police officers, NHS staff and other essential workers helping to battle the Covid-19 pandemic on the frontline.
He said: "Every day I ask my officers to leave their families at home and put themselves in potentially dangerous situations to protect others from harm. I want them to know I am eternally grateful for everything they do, and that I have the utmost respect and admiration for them as they put the welfare of others before their own. I also want to thank the doctors, nurses and other NHS staff who are doing such a fantastic job in battling this terrible virus and helping to save so many lives. These are difficult times for everyone but it is reassuring to know we have some of the best and most dedicated health workers in the world looking after us, and they deserve the highest praise."