COVID patrols hit Burnley and Pendle streets today
Patrols dedicated to enforcing laws designed to limit the spread of coronavirus have hit the streets of Burnley and Pendle, after the new regulations came into force limiting most indoor and outdoor gatherings to six people.
Lancashire Police deputy chief constable Terry Woods said that the "very small percentage of people that deliberately go out of their way" to flout the regulations would not be warned - but fined.
He cited examples in recent days where breaches of existing rules had attracted the maximum financial penalties - £10,000 for an illegal rave and £1,000 for a couple who failed to self-isolate after returning from a foreign destination which was not on the country's travel corridor list.
DCC Woods said that the tough approach would continue - with "checks" on those required to quarantine after returning from abroad. And he added that a similar stance would be taken in enforcing the new "rule of six", which can attract a fixed penalty notice of £100.
"We're a neighbourhood policing force and that's the style we will always keep. However, for the 0.1% of people who are habitually disobeying the regulations, or those who have gone out of their way to disobey [them], we will move straight to enforcement.
"For the rest of the population, we will engage, encourage and educate."
DCC Woods - who has led the policing response to the pandemic - said he and his officers were "really grateful" to the vast majority of Lancashire residents who had attempted to stick to the rules since the outbreak began.
"I firmly believe that those people - which is the bulk - are behind us. They want us to take action against those who are deliberately making things worse for the rest - and that's what they can expect."
The Lancashire force is also preparing how to deal with the impact of students returning to universities - and the temptation to party as though they had not embarked on adult life during a pandemic.
DCC Woods said he believed that most would be "very responsible", but added: "There will definitely be an element that do party and exceed the numbers and we'll take that on a case-by-case basis. We will deal with each incident with common sense and fairness.”