Police dished out 169 fines and gave 960 verbal warnings to people flouting coronavirus lockdown rules in Devon and Cornwall over the Easter weekend.
A quarter of the penalties were issued to offenders who did not live in either county, the force revealed today (Wednesday, April 15).
Officers spoke with more than 5,500 people while carrying out targeted, ‘high-visibility’ patrols which included visits to 4,000 beauty spots and businesses across the region.
Devon and Cornwall Police says its preferred approach is one of ‘engagement, explaining and encouragement’ – with enforcement ‘a last resort’.
Assistant Chief Constable Glen Mayhew said: “We shared the concern of our communities that a small number of people continued to breach the restrictions and were putting lives at risk.
“Our approach was to speak with people and I am really pleased that these figures show a proportionate response.
“With around three per cent of these checks resulting in enforcement, we believe that this shows that our officers used enforcement proportionately and as a last resort.
“We all wanted to enjoy the weather this weekend, but thankfully our beauty spots continue to remain noticeably quieter, which shows that the vast majority of the public are taking government guidance seriously, and are playing their part in helping to reduce the spread of Covid-19, protect the NHS safe and save lives.
“We have seen a slight increase in traffic on the roads, but our roadside checks are establishing that the majority of these who are on our roads are undertaking essential travel.
“I understand the appeal for people to go out, but we need to keep to the restrictions.
“The signs are that they are having an impact, so we all need to do our part to reduce the strain on our NHS as this will ultimately save lives.
“Policing with the support of our communities is our priority and we will continue to use discretion and only use enforcement as appropriate.
“I also want to praise the hard work of partners and volunteers who over the bank holiday weekend supported our activities.
“This included patrols on the beaches and moors to explain to people the importance of the restrictions.
“I would also like to recognise the vast number of other key workers who have also worked incredibly hard, ensuring our core services have continued to deliver.
“Naturally, the coronavirus is at the forefront of our mind, but I want to reassure our communities that we continue to undertake everyday policing; we are still answering over 650 999 calls a day, still responding to incidents and still tackling crime and protecting the vulnerable across Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
“My message to the public is that we are here for you.
“Finally, I would like to thank the public for your continued support and understanding during this challenging time. The messages we have received across social media and comments from the public during our interactions show how difficult we all finding it but how well we are all adapting.
Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez added: “Police, staff and volunteers in our force have very sensibly taken the approach that they will educate and inform the public of their obligations, but we always knew there would be a cohort for whom enforcement was the only option.
“We also knew that, despite the warnings, and a #ComeBackLater campaign supported by us and our many partners, our part of the country would prove irresistible to many who put their own wants before the needs of some of society’s most vulnerable members and we’d see some attempting to travel to the South West over the Easter weekend.
“The vast majority of the public are making extraordinary sacrifices at the moment in order to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and I think they want those who put others at risk dealt with using these new powers.
“Our Chief Constable, frontline officers and staff have my full support, and I believe, the support of the vast majority of our elected leaders, parliamentarians and the public.”