South Yorkshire Police launches dedicated unit for tackling Covid-19 lawbreakers

South Yorkshire Police has launched a dedicated response unit to deal with people breaking coronavirus regulations.

Monday, 19th October 2020, 4:37 pm

As cases of the virus continue to rise and hospital admissions increase across the county, force bosses say they are listening to requests from the public to take targeted action.

The unit is being launched with the aim of reducing infection rates and hopefully ensuring that restrictions do not continue for any longer than they have to.

The response forms part of South Yorkshire’s multi-agency approach, working with local councils and the NHS.

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South Yorkshire Police now has a dedicated unit for dealing with Covid-19 rule breakers.

Its deployments will be determined following daily discussions between each policing district – Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield - and its local authority.

Here, representatives will discuss reports made by members of the public, and what the data shows in relation to positive Covid-19 cases and high risk or problem areas.

Police and local councils will coordinate enforcement action depending who has the most appropriate power to deal with the breach.

A SYP spokesman said: “Our officers will likely lead-on reports in relation to illegal social gatherings and people ignoring instructions to self-isolate when they have been instructed to do so.

"They will also continue to support businesses and transport providers in encouraging customers to wear a face covering.”

Setting out the approach ahead of the team’s first deployment this afternoon, Assistant Chief Constable (ACC) David Hartley said: “Unfortunately crime doesn’t stop in order for us to deal with Covid so whilst this forms a small part of what we do, this is incredibly important in keeping the public safe.

"We started by focusing our efforts on engagement and education to allow people time to become aware of and understand the rules. This period has now passed and so we must move more swiftly to enforcement for those who blatantly or persistently break the rules.”

“The team is being introduced as police seek to secure additional funding, enabling us to step-up enforcement and tackle Covid-19 infections.”

ACC Hartley explained: “We are in a critical position in South Yorkshire; infection rates are rising and we are approaching a point in the year when our health service is already stretched. This is about putting the right measures in place before it’s too late.

“Generally, most people are following the rules, listening to the advice and acting in a sensible manner in order to protect one another. However, we continue to receive reports of blatant and persistent rule breaking which must be addressed.

“It’s not about catching anybody out, but we cannot ignore any dangerous and reckless behaviour. Those people, for example, who are being contacted by the NHS, told to self-isolate and then completely disregard that instruction. This puts other people at risk, especially the vulnerable, and fuels the spread of the virus. It’s against those people that we need to take the appropriate action.”

The small dedicated team will operate in addition to routine neighbourhood patrols and response officers, who attend 999 and 101 calls.

ACC Hartley continued: “This won’t take away from our day-to-day operations, but we want to show that we are listening to concerns and taking a tougher stance on behalf of the people of South Yorkshire. A concerted effort now could help slow the spread of the virus, protect our health service and reduce the duration of further restrictions.”

If you need to report a breach of Covid-19 restrictions, please use the form on the SYP website. Please only call 999 in an emergency.

For more information regarding the measures in place in your area, please visit your local council’s website or visit their social media pages for regular updates.