Thatcham police officers praised for coronavirus response
THATCHAM'S police officers have been thanked for "hanging on in there" during "a really challenging year for policing".
Newbury and Thatcham Neighbourhood Policing Team officers inspector Mark Tucker and sergeant Jo Willoughby provided an update at Thatcham's annual town meeting last week.
Insp Tucker said that the last year had been particularly difficult for Thames Valley Police, "policing in an environment that none of us would have chosen to do so".
He said that a lot of neighbourhood officers had been redeployed during the pandemic and that he had lost all his Pcs and sergeants between May and September.
Newbury Police Station experienced a coronavirus outbreak in September and Insp Tucker said that some staff were still feeling the affects of long Covid.
As well as policing coronavirus regulation breaches, officers had still had to deal with antisocial behaviour and other safeguarding issues, particularly ones involving mental health.
Sgt Willloughby said: "It's been a really challenging year for policing.
"I have never seen anything like it in my 18 years service and I'm hoping we never see anything like that again.
"It's taken its toll on my team."
She said that neighbourhood officers had received "a positive response on the whole" from the public and that 1,000 tickets had been issued to people breaching Covid regulations across the Thames Valley.
She said: "We saw a link early on in respect of antisocial behaviour and people breaching Covid regulations – groups gathering causing issues and breaching the regulations."
Sgt Willoughby said that powers granted to police to deal with breaches had been helpful as officers had been able to issue fines to parents.
"That was really helpful to us because we could fine the parents and hold them accountable for their child's behaviour," she said.
Insp Tucker said there had been a number of reductions in crime, including theft and theft from vehicles down 42 per cent but there had been a 41 per cent increase in violent crime.
"I think that can be attributed to more people people being shut in together," he said. "We have certainly seen an increase in domestic abuse."
He said that house closures had been successful in combating county lines drug dealing.
Team rector at St Mary's Church Rev Mark Bennet thanked the local police team for their efforts.
He said: "Our police have been on the front line with people posing the greatest risk of breaking all the rules. I want to thank them for hanging on in there and making the difference they have."
Town mayor Mike Cole also thanked officers for their amazing response.
He said: "I can't imagine a more challenging job to be in than the police at the moment.
"Throughout the entire 15 months you have had to deal with some huge challenges and we are incredibly grateful as a community that we have an incredibly talented, dedicated and committed force working on our behalf."
Mr Cole also praised officers for their assistance with allowing the town's Remembrance Sunday parade to be held last November as the country entered a second lockdown.
He said: "The rules and regulations and guidance were changing if not day by day certainly every three days in the run up to the parade and the constant advice we had was very much appreciated."