Coronavirus: Crime concerns as disruption widens

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One of the fires at Kilvey HillImage source, MWWFRS
Image caption,
One of the fires at Kilvey Hill in Swansea which firefighters believe was started deliberately

Businesses and emergency services have issued warnings over criminal behaviour as the coronavirus outbreak worsens.

Fire services have dealt with a number of incidents of what they said were deliberately started grassfires, putting the health of staff at risk.

One business forced to close because of the restrictions was burgled just a day after shutting its doors.

Wiseman's Bridge Inn near Saundersfoot, Pembrokeshire, captured CCTV footage of two intruders who broke in.

'It's the damage they caused'

Robert Kemble, whose family has run the business for 66 years, said he was woken up by a CCTV alert in the early hours of Sunday morning after spending Saturday emptying cash from the tills, turning off fridges and closing everything down.

Image source, Robert Kemble
Image caption,
Like all other pubs, the Wiseman's Bridge Inn had to close on Friday evening

As well as the pub, he runs a bed and breakfast service, flat rental and a touring and static caravan park, all of which have been closed.

"I came over [to the pub] and we'd been burgled," he told BBC News.

"They didn't take any anything, it's the damage they caused," he said. "They forced the little small window open with a crowbar and opened the other one to get it."

After putting footage of the incident on the pub's Facebook page, Mr Kemble said he had been "overwhelmed by the community support and spirit" in response.

Dyfed-Powys Police has put out an appeal for information regarding the crime.

'Informal policing'

In the wider Tenby and Saundersfoot area, which relies heavily on tourism and is full of businesses similar to his, he said owners were working together to try to keep an eye on each other's properties.

Publicans and others are staying in touch on messaging groups and have printed posters pasted to the exterior of pubs and restaurants saying all cash and valuables have been removed.

Meanwhile owners were using their exercise time to take it in turns to walk past each other's businesses

"People are going around checking locks and doors and doing a bit more of informal policing," he said.

Fire services in south and mid Wales have both issued pleas for people to act responsibly after a number of deliberate grass fires were started in recent days.

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Mid and West Wales Fire Service said crews had been called to a deliberate fire on Kilvey Hill in Swansea at the same time as a kitchen fire, putting them at risk of a delayed response to a genuine emergency.

Richie Vaughan-Williams, the service's arson reduction manager, said the rise in grass fires was not unusual given the time of year and weather conditions.

However he urged people to follow government advice to stay at home to try to reduce the number of deliberate fires happening and to reduce infection risks for firefighters by not having to mix crews together.

"Naturally we are working hard to protect the health of our operational fire crews," he said.

"When attending grass fires a number of crews commonly have to work hard together sharing equipment so our current procedures for protecting those firefighters can be compromised.

"We have business continuity plans in place to ensure that the core functions are maintained to ensure resilience."


South Wales Fire Service said it had already had to attend a number of grass fires this week which were suspected to be deliberately lit, including eight on Tuesday.

A spokeswoman added: "It is important for us to reinforce that, due to the coronavirus, our current situation is unprecedented.

"While we remain committed to delivering an effective and efficient emergency response across south Wales, we are very aware that many more families will be spending time at home, cooking, washing and using electrical items, which increases the risk of a potential fire."

Police forces said they had been fielding calls from members of the public seeking advice and help in the light of the new rules on social distancing, and put out a plea for people to check other sources, including the UK government.

What about police forces?

Dyfed-Powys Police said it had put together a list of resources on Twitter.

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Both North Wales Police and Gwent Police said questions had included "can I go to work", "can I feed my horse", and "can I get my MOT done". First Minister Mark Drakeford has already clarified it is fine to take cars for MOT tests.

Gwent Police said it currently had 11% of staff off ill or self-isolating, which was within its operating parameters, but would need guidance on which areas to prioritise if the situation worsened.

The force also supported a call for personal protective equipment for all frontline workers to protect their health.