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Face mask arrest? Yes or no?

Monday, July 20th, 2020 12:56pm

By Daniel Clark, local democracy reporter, with Paul Nero

No, says crime commissioner

The Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall has said that officers will not be responding to calls concerning people not wearing face masks when they become mandatory in some settings this week.

It's a slightly different message to that put out by chief constable Shaun Sawyer who says that if police are called to a shop where someone is refusing to wear a mask, they will face arrest if they don't leave, much like they would if they were drunk.

On Friday it will be mandatory for people to wear face coverings when they go to shops and other enclosed spaces – fixed penalty notices of £100 can be issued to people who do not follow the rules. However Alison Hernandez said that police officers would not be responding to calls which only involved someone not wearing a face covering.

She said: “It will just as we do now with covid, the police work on the four Es so they engage people, they encourage people, they educate people and they enforce – that may not be the right order – but they will still be doing that. But as has happened already probably in the last month is we are now back to normal policing, so they are rising back to the levels that they were before and we are moving back into ordinary policing. But the expectation is that they will only come if there is disorder or violence or something associated with it, they are not going to come to every phone call that someone is not wearing a mask."

Ms Hernandez said that towns were provided with a number of options of schemes which could be funded. She said: “What we ended up having in Devon was armed response officers for public order going along and that was not appropriate, you don’t want policing like that because it looks a bit policy, so we needed a better solution and we came up with this idea. That is why this came about really because we just don’t want armed response officers patrolling beaches.”

With tourists now able to visit the south west Ms Hernandez also commented on how the approach to policing was different this summer. We know we are the number one tourist destination in the country, we found out today that we are the number one lowest crime rate in the country, in England and Wales, which actually we have never been number one before so we are really proud of that. 

“We weren’t expecting our young people and our locals to cause much uproar when we came out of lockdown, it wasn’t loads of tourists it was our local people and we probably underestimated how much fun they would have. It was called Super Saturday but it wasn’t just the Saturday it started in the build up in the few weeks building up to that it started to go wrong so we knew that it was going to be slightly different to a normal summer and they were in spaces where they don’t have all that managed arrangement.”

While Devon and Cornwall was named as the lowest crime area in the country this week it was also revealed that while most crime had dropped during lockdown the number of domestic violence incidents had not fallen. Ms Hernandez said: “Domestic violence is one of the only crimes that during covid didn’t reduce so during covid there was a 20% reduction immediately within the first couple of weeks of lockdown, domestic violence didn’t go down. It stayed at the same point as it did last year, we were expecting that there would be challenges with domestic abuse so we have done a lot of extra services to help. The first thing we did is the 24/7 online webchat for victim support and their telephone number so if they don’t want to go the police they can get help 24/7, that was set up straight away.”

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