DORSET Police is preparing for a surge of visitors this weekend as lockdown restrictions ease and the hospitality industry reopens.
But the message to those living in and coming to the region is clear – come back safely, respect, protect and enjoy our communities.
Throughout the last week there have been reports of a surge in bookings across hotels, bed and breakfasts and campsites and this coincides with the reopening of the day and night time economy on Saturday, July 4.
Dorset Police has been anticipating the demand and planning extensively with partners throughout the lockdown period for the reopening of the region.
Chief Constable James Vaughan said: “We know our tourism industry has been seriously affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and there is a need to welcome responsible tourists back.
“However, this needs to be done safely while 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 must follow government advice and guidance as to what is safe, but we would ask all people – whether you are a visitor or a resident – to be respectful and begin to enjoy parts of life none of us have experienced since the end of March.”
Last week saw an estimated 500,000 people come into the Bournemouth and Poole area during one day, with 150,000 descending on Bournemouth seafront and leaving 40 tonnes of rubbish.
Chief Constable Vaughan added: “The scenes of last week were extraordinary and of significant concern to myself as a Chief Constable and a resident.
“Everyone, whether you are a visitor or a resident, has a duty to act responsibly and not to become involved in drink-related anti-social behaviour or leave your rubbish to litter our beautiful region.
“Just because we are coming out of lockdown it is not an excuse to drink irresponsibly, fight or act in a way likely to bring harm to yourself and others. It will not be tolerated and police will take proactive action to deal with this kind of unacceptable behaviour.
“We have a strong collaboration with our partners and will do everything possible to keep those in the county safe – but that needs common sense and respect from all.”
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.
Calls to 999 and 101 increase by 10 and 14% respectively during the summer season and officers and staff will be prioritising this increased demand according to threat, risk, harm and vulnerability – some less urgent matters may take longer to attend.
There will be more officers on patrol across the region with greater visibility and reassurance to communities throughout the summer period – particularly in areas such as Weymouth and Bournemouth that seeing some of the largest swells in population.
Police patrols have also been stepped up on Lyme Regis seafront and in the public gardens in recent weeks, following several reports of late-night anti-social behaviour and one incident in which an officer was injured.
Chief Constable Vaughan added: “Our licensed industry will re-open on Saturday, but it will be a very different experience for those going to a pub or restaurant.
“You are very likely to have to book your visit and may be restricted to the amount of time you can spend in an establishment. We want people to enjoy that experience, but be patient and prepared to have to plan – a walk-up visit to a pub may not be possible for some weeks.
“If you are going to a beach or beauty spot, think about how you are parking your vehicle and the legacy you may leave. We have seen many tonnes of rubbish left on our coastline and country parks during the last week, which is inexcusable – respect our wonderful region and take your rubbish away.”
Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill commented: “Everyone knows that irresponsible drinking leads to public disorder, fighting and other forms of anti-social behaviour.
“There is never any excuse for this, and the fact that the government has chosen to lift restrictions by re-opening pubs and bars does not change that.
“The police are working closely with partners in preparation for Saturday and have resources in place, but it is vital members of the public act responsibly.
“Remember we are still in the middle of a global health emergency, so please don’t do anything that would put additional pressure on our force or on the local health service.”
Busy on the roads
Chief Constable Vaughan added: “We are going to be challenged by the numbers of vehicles on our road network this weekend and during the coming weeks, but again I would ask people to drive safely and not become a fatal or seriously injured statistic on our roads.
“If you are coming to Dorset, we welcome you as a responsible citizen, but please be aware COVID-19 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 further 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.”