The police do not have a role in enforcing the coronavirus quarantine, Avon and Somerset’s top officer has confirmed.
Crime plummeted by a third as the lockdown was imposed but chief constable Andy Marsh said it has now returned to normal levels.
Officers only have limited time to respond to reported lockdown breaches and will not be going door to door checking that people are in their own homes, he said as he asked residents to be public-spirited.
Speaking during his regular Facebook Live slot with police and crime commissioner Sue Mountstevens, Mr Marsh said: “During the lockdown we were spending probably most of our time on Covid-related concerns.
“We’ve seen a change in the regulations, a releasing of the lockdown measures. That’s seen a return to pretty much normal levels of crime.
“Officers are busy with a lot of other stuff, including some very serious crimes. A significantly smaller amount is spent responding to Covid concerns.
“They’re doing this with lower numbers, and from workplaces we’re working hard to make sure are safe.
“This is a public health crisis. This isn’t a crisis the police should lead a response to.”
Relaxed rules introduced on Monday allow groups of up to six people to meet outdoors as long as they socially distance. Anyone who fails to comply when asked by the police can be fined.
But Mr Marsh said: “We’re incredibly busy with our routine business. We have more and more limited time to proactively enforce these regulations.
“We won’t enforce our way out of the pandemic. I’m appealing to the public to work with us.
“Officers have foregone their safety to get on with their work.
“The regulations don’t allow for people coming into your house. It would be a breach.
“We will not be going house to house to catch people.
“The regulations are clear on not staying in places other than your usual dwelling. There are exceptions – but because you’re having a barbecue and you’ve drunk too much is not a reason. You shouldn’t build that into your planning.”
The new test and trace system sees people called up and asked to self-isolate for 14 days if they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.
“We haven’t got a role enforcing the quarantine,” said Mr Marsh. “People will be asked to control a virus which is deadly and has taken many thousands of lives. If we don’t bring it under control we will almost certainly go back into lockdown.
“We will be asking people to be public-spirited and responsible and comply with requests to quarantine – but there won’t be a police-related enforcement role in that.”
Stephen Sumner, Local Democracy Reporter