Devon & Cornwall Police is preparing for an influx of visitors this weekend as lockdown restrictions ease and the hospitality industry reopens.
But the message to those living and coming to our region is clear – come back safely and respect our communities.
Throughout the last week there has been reports of a surge in bookings across hotels, bed and breakfasts and campsites, combined with the re-opening of the day and night time economy on Saturday, July 4.
Devon & Cornwall Police has been anticipating the demand and planning extensively with partners throughout the lockdown period for the re-opening of our region.
Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer: “I know that our world class tourism and hospitality industry has been decimated by the COVID pandemic and there is a desperate need to welcome tourists back to our peninsula and islands.
“But this needs to be done safely and appreciating the fears our resident communities may have with many thousands of people coming back to our region – with the health concerns this may bring.
“We follow Government advice and guidance as to what is safe, but we would ask all people – whether you are a visitor, resident or business – to be respectful and begin to enjoy parts of life none of us has experienced since the end of March.”
Demand on police and other emergency services is expected to see a considerable increase from this weekend and for the rest of the summer season – likely to stretch well into September.
Devon and Cornwall sees the second highest tourism surge in population, behind London, during the summer months with demand on policing up by 20 per cent in terms of emergency and non-emergency calls.
Officers, staff and volunteers will be prioritising this increased demand according to threat, risk and harm – some less urgent matters may take longer to attend.
The last week in Devon & Cornwall has seen a number of incidents of large gatherings, particularly in coastal and waterside areas, with reports of drink related anti-social behaviour and crime as a result.
There will be more officers on patrol throughout the region with greater visibility and reassurance to communities throughout the summer period.
Chief Constable Sawyer added: “Our licensed and hospitality industry will re-open on Saturday, but it will be a very different experience for those going to a pub or restaurant.
“I strongly encourage you to book your visit and you will be restricted to two hours in an establishment. We want people to enjoy that experience, but we cannot tolerate scenes like we have witnessed in Exmouth and on Plymouth’s Barbican in the last week.
“All people have a duty to drink responsibly, adhere to social distancing and not fight or commit criminal damage simply because we are coming out of lockdown. We will take proactive action against any drink related disorder and would ask people to think seriously about their actions.
“I wholly welcome a £500,000 investment by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner to give support to 20 locations across the force aimed at reducing drink related anti-social behaviour – providing elements such as extra street warden security, public toilets and CCTV monitoring.
The 20 locations are: Orcombe Point (Exmouth), Exeter Quay, Exeter Cathedral, Bideford Quay, Teignmouth seafront, Woolacombe Beach, Croyde Bay, Torquay seafront, Paignton seafront, Newton Abbot, Brixham Harbour, Towan Beach and town centre (Newquay), Fistral Beach (Newquay), St Ives waterfront, Truro centre and Lemon Quay, Perran Sands (Perranporth), Penzance waterfront, Bude seafront and beach, Plymouth Hoe and Plymouth Barbican.
Alison Hernandez, the commissioner, will be working with local authorities and community safety partnerships over the next few days to agree bespoke solutions for each of the locations but has immediately made available £3,000 per location to support this coming weekend. She says:
“We are entering what is traditionally Devon and Cornwall Police’s busiest period, with potentially even more visitors to the Westcountry than in previous years,” she said.
“I welcome the fact that the bars, restaurants and cafes which are an important part of our economy will be able to open this weekend, and we can once again give tourists a warm west country welcome.
“But I do want people to behave responsibly and consider the impact of their behaviour on others. This funding represents a significant investment in practical measures that, in partnership with councils and police, will help keep people safe and reduce the impact of the impending changes to coronavirus regulations.
The funding can be spent on street marshals, CCTV, assisting volunteer schemes like Street Pastors and the provision of temporary toilets.
“And if you are going to a beach or beauty spot, park considerately and think about the legacy you may leave. We have seen many tonnes of rubbish left on coastline and country parks during the last week which is inexcusable – respect our wonderful region and take your rubbish away.
“I would also ask you respect the dangers that our coastline can pose in terms of swimming and surfing in the sea.”
Chief Constable Sawyer said: “I have no doubt we are going to be challenged by the numbers of vehicles on our road network this weekend and during the coming weeks – including abandoned vehicles on our roads. I would ask people drive safely and do not become a fatal or seriously injured statistic on our roads.
“If you are coming, we welcome you as a responsible citizen, but please be aware COVID has not gone away.
“Social distancing still needs to be observed and everyone must play their part to prevent the virus spreading and not bring more misery upon our communities.
“Play your part and behave in a way that respects our communities, supports the local economy, but ultimately keep yourself and others safe.”