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A pandemic threat has been top of Bedfordshire Police’s risk register for the past decade, meeting hears

The county’s force responded quickly to the challenges, Bedfordshire Police and Crime Panel was told, despite the pressures piled on the NHS.

We’ve obviously had this on the agenda for a period of years,” explained the county’s Chief Constable Garry Forsyth to a Bedfordshire Police and Crime Panel meeting this week (9 June 2020).

Pandemic influenza has been the number one threat on the risk register for about the last ten years.

So, while it’s not an exact match and some of the stuff we’re having to develop agilely as we respond to Covid-19, we have had some pretty good plans and preparedness in place for this for a period of years now.

That’s tested us, but we have responded very positively to it.

We’ve been able to police and adopt a style and posture that normally we can’t because we’re too busy.

Our outcome and detection rate has risen significantly over the period of Covid, so that’s a positive around those backlog crimes.

The most noticeable one is our increased proactivity, and some of the fantastic results we’ve had around drug seizures and targeting drug dealers.

We’ve had tremendous success in doing that,” he said. “It’s been very difficult for criminals to operate.

And we’ve seen their method of operation change in response to our effective policing tactics.

In the early stages of lockdown, they couldn’t hide in the way they ordinarily would in crowds of people.

They stood out like a sore thumb. We’ve had some superb results.

There are multiple seizures and lots of successful operations from that.”

New technology has enabled some staff to work effectively from home, according to the chief constable.

We’ve seen some significant reductions in crime,” he added.

We’ve also seen a significant spike in some of our workload to support the Covid demands, which came with the legislation and regulations to issue fixed penalty notices.

Immediately lockdown was announced we saw a huge spike of calls into our control room.

We have seen levels of call demands, over the bank holiday periods, far in excess of anything we normally see throughout the course of the year, and even on a New Year’s Eve.

For the peak periods of bank holiday, we had more than 700 calls with people seeking clarification around Covid regulations or wanting to make a report about that.

A lot of things from Covid which will have a positive benefit and impact for us operationally.”

Low levels of sickness after the initial part of the lockdown provided some extra policing capacity, the panel heard.

We have a business continuity plan and an incremental shutdown plan, that if we see high levels of abstraction in the organisation we can flex from non-essential functions into the more essential ones.

We were experiencing significant pressures on the disclosure and barring service, over checks on the volunteers who wanted to go and work in the NHS.

So we were able to increase that capacity to meet those challenges.

I have to say the workforce has been nothing short of remarkable in how they’ve responded.

Something of a strange silver lining from Covid has been our ability to effectively and proactively police across Bedfordshire.