Police officers will stop to speak to people who leave their homes and those who are out driving on the roads to make sure they are following government advice – and if necessary issue fines.
PM Boris Johnson announced he will give police powers to enforce the instructions to stay at home and disperse gatherings of people.
A meeting between North Yorkshire police and fire service bosses heard that more officers will be on the streets, they will stop and speak to anyone walking around – or driving – to check that they are acting within the guidelines, and that they will issue fines if they have to.
North Yorkshire Police’s Assistant Chief Constable Mike Walker said he is “impatiently waiting” for the powers from government – which could come into force from Thursday or sooner.
Over the weekend at some of our tourist areas and at the coast we saw some inappropriate and reckless behaviour.
Don’t be surprised if you are out and about and you are stopped by police and asked what you are doing.The public will see a greater police presence. Our job is to make sure people are sticking to the guidelines.
He added that its is currently “business as usual” for police but that if officer numbers cannot meet growing pressures, the force will bring in contingency plans.
Staff absence levels are being monitored through the day.
“We are well equipped with personal protective equipment (PPE), it has been one of the key priorities,” Asst Ch Con Walker said. “It has been challenging to get that kit out there and to maintain it. But I’m satisfied at the moment that we are protecting our staff sufficiently.”
People are also encouraged to call 101 if they believe government guidelines are being ignored and there is a risk to life.
‘We will use our powers’
People are also urged not to make unnecessary journeys by car. Police, fire and crime commissioner Julia Mulligan said: “We don’t want empty roads to be used as a racetrack. The pressures on the NHS are incredible and we would not want to add to them.”
Earlier Chief Constable Lisa Winward had issued a blunt statement to the people of the county, saying:
Now there is no ambiguity, there can be no question – if you do not need to be outside for an essential reason, to buy food or medicine or to exercise once a day, you must stay at home.
Anyone who thinks this does not apply to them is putting lives at risk. North Yorkshire Police will use all powers we have to stop that, to keep us all safe and to ultimately save lives.
At the meeting she said people following advice do not need to worry about being prosecuted if they are stopped by police. “We police by consent and we can only deliver our service through the support of the public.
“Overwhelmingly we want to continue with that community-style policing.”
Andrew Brodie, chief fire officer at North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, said staff are working from home where possible and added that there had been some difficulties getting hold of personal protective equipment and hygiene supplies.
But he said hygiene products are now being sent to every officer at every fire station.
CFO Brodie told the meeting: “I can provide absolute reassurance that when we receive a 999 call, we respond to it in the normal way.
“We do minimise contact when we attend incidents.
“We take it extremely seriously and we would encourage the public to take it extremely seriously.”