South Yorkshire Police Chief Constable Stephen Watson QPM said:
“There are very few good things to be drawn from a virus that takes the lives of loved ones and causes economic disaster but if we look hard enough, we see in South Yorkshire, a community of people who have pulled together, pulled in the same direction and have done everything in their power to see off this virus. I include in this all of those working on the front line and those supporting them, all of those facing bereavement, hardship, loneliness, those who have called upon a neighbour in need, and reported domestic violence where the victim couldn’t. I think we have seen what South Yorkshire people are made of.
“Contrary to the many headlines, we have not seen mass gatherings, we haven’t seen lots of people wishing to breach restrictions. We have seen some in the early days who didn’t quite understand how the restrictions affected them. Those people were given advice and sent on their way. We have seen a very small number wilfully breach the restrictions and they have been dealt with accordingly.
"Fixed penalty notices have been issued to 258 people. This has, in some circumstances, included arrests. For example, a car of four people was stopped, the driver was arrested for possession with intent to supply class A drugs and his three passengers were issued with a fixed penalty notice. The driver has since been charged.
"I’m reassured here by two things; South Yorkshire people are policed by consent. Where they are given new rules, which appear to be reasonable and proportionate, they will abide. I also take from this that your officers are looking in the right places and are taking a proportionate approach of engagement and education before any consideration of enforcement.
"Whilst the law abiding play their part and stay home, the roads are quieter; filled only with key workers and criminals. Two very different groups. The criminals stand out and make the lives of our road policing officers far more fruitful.
"In the last six weeks, these officers have removed many criminals from the road network for a range of offences including possession with intent to supply class A drugs, drink driving and immigration offences. Numerous cars have been seized, and stolen cars recovered along with around £100k in cash and a kilo of suspected class A drugs from one and around £80k of drugs from another. Policing continues.
"We have also made good head way against those wanted on warrant. When the world stands still and criminals try to move around undetected, it becomes far more challenging for them.
"Our officers and our social media channels report a shift in public behaviour. We are seeing humanity in abundance. We share a common enemy in the virus and in doing so, South Yorkshire has responded with stronger communities. We are seeing many many acts of kindness, a new level of humanity and community spirit. If there is any good that can be taken from this torrid situation, let’s hope it is this.
"In terms of community spirit, I would also like to mention our special constabulary. These are people who give up their spare time to serve the community through policing. They undertake extensive training, deliver hours upon hours of free policing and they do so driven by community spirit. Many of our special constabulary have been furloughed from their day jobs during this period so we have seen their contribution to policing increase. They do this quietly, without a desire for praise but praise is due and so I want to pass on my thanks.
"Many of our special constabulary have been recruited into our regular constabulary as their skills are hotly sought. In July 2019, we announced an uplift in police officers for South Yorkshire Police of more than 200 following an increased precept and a review of the role of Police and Community Support Officers. We have now recruited many of these and are set to work on recruiting our allocation of the 20,000 officers allocated to us following the Government’s announcement in October last year. Our next recruitment window opens in June and I’m keen to hear from anyone who has been motivated by this community spirit and requires a focus for it."
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