Coronavirus: Officers to patrol parks, beaches and forests

By Jenny Rees
BBC Wales home affairs correspondent

  • Published
police on horses and bicycle on patrol in Cardiff
Image caption,
Police on patrol on horseback and bicycles in Cardiff

The head of South Wales Police says officers will be patrolling parks, beaches and forestry to ensure people are not breaching restrictions.

Chief Constable Matt Jukes said he is confident people are following guidelines over staying home.

However he is concerned domestic violence is going unreported during the lockdown following a decline in calls.

The force currently has 13% of staff ill or self isolating but said it is still offering their core service.

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Last weekend saw "unprecedented" crowds gather at popular tourist destinations such as Barry Island and Porthcawl, despite warnings over social distancing, prompting strict new restrictions.

Checkpoints and roadblocks are not needed at the moment, Mr Jukes said, but police would continue to turn people away from popular sites.

"We don't want people gathering on the beach fronts and in the forestry in our area," he said.

"We are getting all sorts of questions about how far we can drive to take exercise and whether surfing at the beach is included in that.

"If you're looking for a way to creep in between these rules, you are missing the point.

"There is a national emergency under way and people do need to act in ways which are responsible."

What are the fines in Wales?

  • People who breach the new rules risk a £60 fine.
  • A fixed penalty notice for a first offence falls to £30 if paid within 14 days.
  • Fines rise to £120 for second and subsequent offences - and individuals ignoring the rules could risk arrest if they refuse to comply.
  • Although fines in England could reach as high as £960, that will not happen in Wales.
Image source, Wales News Service
Image caption,
Crowds have also been heading for the coast - Sunday was busy in Barry Island

Mr Jukes said crime across south Wales is down 20% but he remains concerned over domestic violence.

The number of calls related to domestic abuse have fallen but, given people are having to stay at home, he is worried those figures are not an accurate reflection of what is going on behind closed doors.

"It's really important to recognise policing hasn't stopped," he said.

"It has a new responsibility but if you're a victim of domestic abuse you can contact us and we will come through the door."

Image caption,
Officers are not "the queuing police" said Matt Jukes

The force currently has 13% of staff off, either ill or self isolating, but Mr Jukes said many officers due to retire this spring or summer have offered to stay on while some recently retired staff have offered to return.

"At the moment our resources are holding up well, but like the NHS, they'll only hold up well if people pay attention to these new regulations," he said.

"Talking to colleagues about incidents overnight and looking at CCTV footage across Cardiff, it is clear that people are following the rules.

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"We will be on the streets of course and we will have the opportunity to enforce the law, but the first place we'll start is that appeal to stay at home, to save the NHS and to save lives that way.

He said he does not want his officers to become the "queuing police" regarding social distancing.

"Frankly I don't think we'll need to," he said, "I think communities will get that for themselves."