Police force facing rise in calls due to influx of visitors

A police force is experiencing “unprecedented demand” due to an influx of tourists.

Devon and Cornwall Police said there had been a 26% increase in demand for 999 services last weekend compared with 2019.

The force received 2,301 emergency calls at the weekend, with anti-social behaviour accounting for many of the calls.

Assistant Chief Constable Jim Colwell
Assistant Chief Constable Jim Colwell

Assistant Chief Constable Jim Colwell said the weekend’s events, spurred on by the hot weather, had resulted in an “unprecedented demand” – forcing officers to attend a “plethora of different incidents”.

It included 31 reports of environmental anti-social behaviour, including disposable barbeques and other rubbish being left behind by people.

Officers said a further 102 reports of anti-social behaviour were “often drink-related” and recorded another 191 reports of people being a “nuisance”.

In August alone, the force said it had taken 9,622 calls, equating to about 962 per day and “significantly up” on the average 718.

The force said Devon and Cornwall was “largely full to current capacity” and visitors should book ahead before travelling.

Devon & Cornwall Police is calling on communities and tourists to respect our region after the weekend saw record 999 calls and increased levels of anti-social behaviour and public order incidents. Read more here: https://t.co/LsKT9zoqURpic.twitter.com/IF0CdBMQSc

— Devon & Cornwall Police (@DC_Police) August 12, 2020

“We want to welcome tourists safely back into our communities and support a restart to our essential tourism economy,” Mr Colwell said.

“But that needs to be done respectfully by everyone and the levels of ASB recorded over the weekend are unacceptably high.

“We understand people want to enjoy what our region has to offer, but please do this safely and within the law, otherwise police will take proactive enforcement action to protect others.

“August so far has also seen public order crimes up by almost 25% on this time last year.

“Again, we want people to be able to enjoy the good weather and reopened hospitality sector, but that has to be done responsibly – everyone must accept that personal responsibility and play their part.”

With further good weather expected over the coming weekend and planning is already under way for increased numbers over the August bank holiday weekend.

“Come safely and prepared to Devon and Cornwall and you will be welcomed,” Mr Colwell said.

“Book your accommodation before you travel, drive safely on our roads, respect our coasts and drink responsibly.”

Holidaymakers are putting extra pressure on Devon and Cornwall Police's resources
Holidaymakers are putting extra pressure on Devon and Cornwall Police's resources

The South Western Ambulance Service was also reminding people to call 999 only in a medical emergency after seeing a significant increase in demand.

Between August 7 and 11, the trust dealt with 14,340 incidents – an increase of 13% compared to last year.

“In recent days we have experienced a very high level of demand – similar to what would normally be expected between Christmas and New Year,” a spokesman said.

Meanwhile, in Falmouth, performance artists were being used to remind visitors about social distancing.

Richard Wilcox, manager of Falmouth Business Improvement District, said: “Of course, there’s a serious message here.

“The introduction of performing artists who will adapt their routines to incorporate safety messaging in a fun and imaginative way, is a quirky and original strand on top of the wide range of flexible and responsive support measures already rolled out.”

Mr Wilcox said tourism numbers in Cornwall were down compared to previous years.

“We are running at about 70 to 80% capacity – we normally have 180,000 visitors in August and we are currently at about 150,000,” he added.