THE chief inspector of West Mercia Police has spoken of the challenges faced by officers during the coronavirus crisis in Wyre Forest.

The pandemic and resulting lockdown has seen a fall in public disorder, while the force has had to adapt to tackle new challenges such as lockdown breaches, a rise in cyber crime and criminals seeking to take advantage of those most at risk from the virus.

Speaking to The Shuttle, Chief Inspector Kinrade said: "The Covid pandemic has raised all kinds of challenges for policing, and the Wyre Forest area is no different.

"We’ve had to adapt our policing in all kinds of ways, and take on roles we would never have anticipated, in support of our health colleagues.

"Whilst the closure of the shops, pubs and restaurants gave some respite around problems with shoplifting and public disorder, we saw an increase in calls around the Covid breaches and new challenges such as cyber-crime with criminals seeking to take advantage of Covid vulnerabilities.

"The increasing time that families were spending in their homes, and the closure of our schools, has also seen nationwide concerns around abuse taking place within the home, much of which may still have gone unreported."

Now, with the gradual reopening of public places, police are facing another period of fresh challenges.

Chief Inspector Kinrade said: "The gradual re-opening of public places has also brought new challenges, in terms of how people would respond after months of lockdown, and how that would coincide with the new norms of social distancing, whilst working with our partners to keep that every watchful eye on new outbreaks and how that would be responded to.

"The opening of pubs in particular was the focus of our attention in recent weeks. We have been working hard with our partners across Wyre Forest, such as Worcestershire Regulatory Services and the Security Industry Authority (SIA) to understand how we could support the re-opening of the pubs and other night time economy businesses, in a way that was safe for everyone. Our work with licensees has been extensive with Safer Neighbourhood officers and our licensing officers working hard behind the scenes to understand the challenges and agree plans.

"The first weekend of opening set the tone, with lots of people out around Kidderminster and the surrounding area, enjoying the relaxing of lockdown.

"Our officers remained focussed on engaging, explaining and encouraging compliance with the Covid regulations and legislation, only moving to Enforcement activity where these had failed.

"On the whole we were hugely impressed with the responsible attitude of businesses and the public alike, and we have been able to flex the number of officers on duty according to these new demand levels. The injection of new officers into West Mercia in recent months sees us well placed to cope with these demands.

"The new normal is here, but we have a watchful eye on the future and the challenges ahead and we will continue to address this with our partners."