Police launch online reporting tool for social distancing breaches

Officers in Northern Ireland have asked the public to alert them to instances of people breaking the rules.

Police in Northern Ireland have launched a webpage for people to report breaches of social distancing rules
Police in Northern Ireland have launched a webpage for people to report breaches of social distancing rules

Police in Northern Ireland have launched a webpage for people to report alleged breaches of social distancing rules.

The initiative is seeking to take pressure off the existing police non-emergency 101 phone number for reporting crime.

The move comes as commanders revealed that they had received nearly 1,000 reports of alleged breaches of the current lockdown measures in less than two weeks.

Police have stepped up patrols across Northern Ireland over the Easter holidays, with officers targeting tourist locations and popular visitor spots amid fears that people will disregard the rules.

Gardai and PSNI officers mount armed coronavirus checkpoints on the border with Northern Ireland at Carrickarnon, Co Louth
Gardai and PSNI officers mount armed coronavirus checkpoints on the border with Northern Ireland at Carrickarnon, Co Louth (Niall Carson/PA)

Officers are also investigating after footage emerged this week of significant crowds gathering at funerals, despite rules confining services to close family members.

People will now be able to report any instances of concern using an online form.

Officers encouraged people to contact police if they were aware of any breaches, including gatherings of people; people repeatedly travelling for non-essential purposes; or a bar or licensed premises remaining open.

Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd encouraged people to use the facility “sensibly”.

“We want to resolve situations where the restrictions are being contravened without having to resort to enforcement powers or issuing fines,” he said.

“However, where breaches do occur, we want to make it as easy as possible for members of the public to tell us while, at the same time, making sure that the 101 number remains available and accessible to those who need to report a crime or an incident.”

Mr Todd said police had received 906 complaints about the restrictions not being adhered since March 28.

“I am encouraging people to carefully consider the circumstances before making a report, but I can assure the public that all reports will be considered by our staff coordinating the operational policing response to Covid-19,” he added.

“Every day there are officers dedicated to ensuring we engage, explain, encourage and, if necessary, enforce the regulations.

“As we go toward Easter weekend this will be supplemented by additional officers. This will ensure we respond in a way which is consistent to keep us all safe.

“My message to everyone is that we all have a personal responsibility to follow the regulations and to do everything we can to stop the spread of Covid-19, protect the Health Service and save lives.”

He added: “We all have a part to play and make a difference.”

The webpage is available on www.psni.police.uk/covid19.

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