Senior police figures have urged the public to “be sensible” this weekend amid concerns partygoers are planning one last blowout before new restrictions on social gatherings are introduced.
Groups of more than six people will be banned across England, Wales and Scotland from Monday as government ministers try to curb the rise in coronavirus cases.
The head of the Metropolitan Police Federation told Sky News it is monitoring the situation “carefully” – while a senior police representative in West Yorkshire voiced concerns illegal raves are “getting out of hand” in the area.
Forces have the power to fine people £10,000 for organising illegal gatherings of more than 30 people.
Brian Booth, chairman of the West Yorkshire Police Federation, said illegal raves are a “really big concern” ahead of the weekend.
“These are getting out of hand – we’re having several cases every weekend of these illegal raves,” Mr Booth told Sky News.
“We try and get in quick and deal with them but we can’t stop them all.”
He added: “I can say simply that the police just do not have the resources to keep everyone in line.
“We’ve never been as busy. We’re as busy as before COVID came along, then you put the impact of COVID on top of policing.
“We’re just keeping our heads above the water.
“We’ve got to get a grip of these COVID rates because crimes will spiral once deprivation takes over.”
In London, where warm weather is forecast this weekend, Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said: “We’re going to have to monitor it carefully.
“The weather’s going to be nice, which doesn’t help in this sort of situation, which tends to get people out and about.
“But I hope people are going to be sensible.
“It’s all new and very rapid, the speed that it’s changing… we’ve just got to go with it and hope we can keep control and the public understand what is required.”
West Midlands’ deputy police and crime commissioner Waheed Saleem urged young people to “enjoy the weekend in a safe way”.
“We have seen that crime levels and demand have gone back to pre-COVID levels,” he told Sky News.
“We are diverting valuable resources into breaking up these illegal gatherings, where we should be putting these resources into tackling significant crimes.”
The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) told Sky News it did not have “direct intelligence to indicate lots of gatherings this weekend” but it would “take enforcement action where necessary”.
Martin Hewitt, chairman of the NPCC, said: “As we start to see a rise in infections it is vitally important that we all follow the regulations and restrictions in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
“Everyone has a role to play limiting the outbreak by following the regulations, including those about gatherings which are now limited to six people both indoors and outside.
“Officers will continue to be out in communities – engaging, explaining and encouraging people to act responsibly.”
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