DORSET Police has thanked local communities for their patience and continued support following another busy summer season.
The force’s Summer Policing operation ran from April through to the end of September and involved extensive planning to enable officers to meet the demands of what has been one of the county’s busiest ever holiday seasons.
The restrictions on international travel, return of key events and reopening of the night-time economy as part of the COVID-19 roadmap saw an increase in the number of people visiting Dorset.
This year, Dorset Police worked closely alongside partner agencies, including weekly meetings and officers embedded into two Multi Agency Command Centres in Bournemouth and the west of the county.
A number of key operations and campaigns were launched in the county in a bid to keep residents and visitors safe. This included Operation Relentless, the force’s drive to reduce anti-social behaviour, and Don’t Regret Your Night Out, in which Dorset Police partnered up with local taxi companies to reduce violent crime.
A targeted drink and drug drive campaign also ran for six weeks in July and August to coincide with the full unlocking of the hospitality industry.
Work continued in the county to tackle drug misuse and county lines gangs, with a focused week of intensification that led to 14 arrests in May and the force joining colleagues from British Transport Police for a day of action in Weymouth.
A #KnowTheSigns awareness campaign was also launched to raise awareness among the public to recognise the signs of county lines and report concerns to the police.
This summer, Dorset Police also encouraged members of the public to use its digital contact channels to enable demand to be managed more effectively, especially during a time of reduced staffing as a result of COVID-19 isolations.
During one week in July, about 35 per cent of staff in the Force Command Centre were off at a time when 999 calls had increased by 21 per cent and 101 calls by 11 per cent compared to the previous week.
Serious violence and sexual offences remain a priority for Dorset Police and this summer saw the launch of Operation Vigilant in Bournemouth and Weymouth town centres.
Operation Vigilant is proactive policing based on the use of both covert plain clothed officers and high-visibility patrols during the night-time economy to spot and intervene in instances of aggressive, predatory and intrusive sexual behaviour.
An initiative to reduce the number of catalytic converter thefts was also launched following a 368 per cent rise in reports between January and June 2020 and the same time this year. Following an awareness campaign providing crime prevention advice offences fell by 94 per cent.
Support from public ‘must not be underestimated’
Chief Superintendent Mark Callaghan, Summer Policing Gold Commander, said: “This year was always going to be a challenge for policing as the COVID-19 restrictions lifted and more people visited the county because they were unable to travel abroad.
“We saw the return of some key events in the county, including Euros 2020, Bournemouth 7s and Bournemouth Air Festival, that placed additional demand on our services.
“The support the force received from the public this summer must not be underestimated.
“We faced significant challenges with staff in our Force Command Centre having to isolate, but our communities listened and contacted us using our digital channels so those members of staff working from home could respond.
“We have also received overwhelming support from our special constables and police staff volunteers who have given up over 14,000 hours during our summer policing operation. They give up their own time to support the force and we are proud to have them in our policing family.
“I would like to praise the force’s officers and police staff for the unwavering commitment and professionalism they have shown during what has been a difficult 18 months.
“We fully acknowledge it has not been easy as some had their rest days cancelled and were moved onto 12-hour shifts to enable us to meet the demands of the summer.
“Finally, as we move into the autumn and winter, I would like to reassure our communities that our focus on driving down anti-social behaviour, drug misuse, violent crime and serious sexual offences continues and our officers will remain out there in our communities to ensure the public are safe and feel safe.”
Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner David Sidwick added: “The summer ‘staycation’ season has been a challenging one for the force and its partner agencies and I would like to thank everyone who has worked so hard over the summer to keep our residents and visitors safe.
“I am delighted to see that the force has put in place such a range of important operations and campaigns, in particular Op Relentless and Op Vigilant.
“Many people will know that tackling anti-social behaviour and fighting crime and high harm are two of the main priorities that will come to feature in my Police and Crime Plan for Dorset and I can reassure residents and visitors alike that I will continue to work with the Chief Constable to ensure that they remain a priority for the force.”