Police stick with warnings despite 1,000 COVID-19-related incidents

Dominic Giannini 13 May 2020 1
Chief Police Officer Ray Johnson

Chief Police Officer Ray Johnson said no infringement notices and only seven cautions had been issued since March. Photo: Region Media.

More than 1,000 COVID-19-related incidents have been recorded by ACT Policing since the health directions were imposed in March, including 122 compliance-related call-outs since last Monday (4 May).

Despite the call-outs, no infringement notices or fines have been issued, although seven people have been cautioned, including two in Jervis Bay.

The COVID-19 call-outs relate to possible health direction breaches for offences such as failing to adhere to physical distancing regulations.

ACT Chief Police Officer Ray Johnson said police have been pleased with the conduct of Canberrans during the pandemic, but again warned against community complacency.

“I urge all Canberrans to listen to the advice and follow directions for everyone’s safety. It is important to be alert and take personal responsibility for how you interact with your fellow Canberrans,” he said.

“We have deliberately taken an ‘inform and educate’ approach and this will continue in the coming weeks.

“Over the weekend, the vast majority of COVID-19 incidents we attended were genuine misunderstandings of what is and is not permitted.”

Members of a local rugby union team were approached by police at a north Canberra oval on Saturday (9 May) for training with more than 10 people but moved on when they were advised they were breaking regulations.

However, a caution was issued to a business which allowed customers to sit outside and broke social distancing regulations in the takeaway line.

Over the weekend, shopping centres and precincts were hotspots for regulation breaches as more people out and about became bottlenecked while shopping, CPO Johnson said.

He reiterated that as regulations continue to change, Canberrans must keep up to date to make sure they are not violating social distancing measures, even inadvertently.

“My call to the community is to make sure you pay attention to the changes in the coming weeks and stay up to date and pay attention and follow the rules … but I understand it will be more difficult as things change,” he said.

With fewer people driving, excessive speeding has become a greater problem on ACT roads. ACT Policing predicts speeding and failing to stop offences will fall now that more people are out and about on the roads.

“We have seen more cases of speeding and the theory we are running with is that because the roads have less people on them, people feel freer to travel at higher speeds,” CPO Johnson said.

“It has been an observable trend, across not only our jurisdiction.

“Failing to stop for police, that tends to be cyclical. I think we have seen another part of the cycle in recent days, and I am not sure it is directly related to the current circumstances.”

However, there was a drop in other crime rates during April which are being attributed to the COVID-19 restrictions, including assaults and sexual assaults.

“There are a number of reasons, perhaps, why we have seen changing crime rates. Some are that people are home … people are not committing as many residential burglaries because people are home,” CPO Johnson said.

“There are not as many people on the roads, so road accidents are down.

“But there are things we are concerned about that might mean we see a rebound in crime as restrictions are eased.”

Emergency Services Minister Mick Gentleman lauded ACT Policing for their efforts so far and thanked Canberrans for their generally good behaviour throughout the crisis.

“It has been a pretty tough year for Canberra. We have had the bushfires, we have had hailstorms and now COVID-19,” Mr Gentlemand said.

“But the actions that Canberrans have taken in remaining safe means that we have saved lives.”

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One Response to Police stick with warnings despite 1,000 COVID-19-related incidents
Acton Acton 3:30 pm 13 May 20

The ACT police have acted wisely and far more professionally than their state counterparts who have on several occasions used the opportunity to act as tyrants enforcing a police state. Police overreactions should and will come under scrutiny.

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