THE chief constable of Devon and Cornwall Police has asked visitors to be respectful as the area prepares for an influx of visitors this weekend.

Saturday (July 4) sees lockdown restrictions further eased, allowing pubs, restaurants, cafés, hotels and more to reopen – and it is also the first time since March that people can stay away from home for the night freely.

The police said the message was clear: "Come back safely and respect our communities."

It said that the past week had seen reports of a surge in bookings across hotels, bed and breakfasts and campsites, combined with the reopening of the day and night time economy on Saturday.

Devon and Cornwall Police said it had been anticipating the demand and had planned extensively with partners throughout the lockdown period for the reopening.

Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer said: “I know that our world class tourism and hospitality industry has been decimated by the Covid pandemic and there is a desperate need to welcome tourists back to our peninsula and islands.

“But this needs to be done safely and 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 follow Government advice and guidance as to what is safe, but we would ask all people – whether you are a visitor, resident or business – to be respectful and begin to enjoy parts of life none of us has experienced since the end of March.”

Somerset County Gazette:

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.

Devon and Cornwall sees the second highest tourism surge in population, behind London, during the summer months with demand on policing up by 20 per cent in terms of emergency and non-emergency calls.

The force said that officers, staff and volunteers would be prioritising this increased demand according to threat, risk and harm – and some less urgent matters may take longer to attend.

The past week has seen a number of incidents of large gatherings, particularly in coastal and waterside areas, with reports of drink-related anti-social behaviour and crime as a result.

There will be more officers on patrol throughout the region with greater visibility and reassurance to communities throughout the summer period.

Chief Constable Sawyer added: “Our licensed and hospitality industry will reopen on Saturday, but it will be a very different experience for those going to a pub or restaurant.

“I strongly encourage you to book your visit and you will be restricted to two hours in an establishment. We want people to enjoy that experience, but we cannot tolerate scenes like we have witnessed in Exmouth and on Plymouth’s Barbican in the past week.

“All people have a duty to drink responsibly, adhere to social distancing and not fight or commit criminal damage simply because we are coming out of lockdown. We will take proactive action against any drink related disorder and would ask people to think seriously about their actions."

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He welcomed investment by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner to give support to 20 locations across the force aimed at reducing drink-related anti-social behaviour – providing elements such as extra street warden security, public toilets and CCTV monitoring.

Chief Constable Sawyer added:“And if you are going to a beach or beauty spot, park considerately and think about the legacy you may leave. We have seen many tonnes of rubbish left on coastline and country parks during the last week which is inexcusable – respect our wonderful region and take your rubbish away.

“I would also ask you respect the dangers that our coastline can pose in terms of swimming and surfing in the sea.

“I have no doubt we are going to be challenged by the numbers of vehicles on our road network this weekend and during the coming weeks – including abandoned vehicles on our roads. I would ask people drive safely and do not become a fatal or seriously injured statistic on our roads.

“If you are coming to Devon, Cornwall, Torbay, Plymouth or the Isles of Scilly, we welcome you as a responsible citizen, but please be aware Covid has not gone away.

“Social distancing still needs to be observed and everyone must play there part to prevent the virus spreading and not bring more 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.”