DORSET Police’s chief constable is urging visitors not to travel to the county as new statistics show more than three quarters of fines issued by the force for lockdown Covid breaches have been to non-Dorset residents.

Across the three national lockdowns to date, people from outside the county have received 76.3 per cent of the fixed penalty notices (FPNs) issued by Dorset Police.

Between March 27, 2020, and January 17, 2021, the force handed out 1,083 FPNs, with almost 200 of these coming since the start of the current lockdown restrictions on January 6.

Dorset Police chief constable James Vaughan said it was frustrating to still be facing visitors flouting the rules and travelling to the county during lockdown.

Ahead of half term, he said: “Dorset is a tourist destination and a lot of our businesses and economy relies upon it, so in normal circumstances we welcome people here, it is part of Dorset life.

Swanage and Wareham Voice: Chief constable James VaughanChief constable James Vaughan

"Next week is half term and we have been in lockdown for a month. It is our third lockdown. We have had Covid restrictions of one degree or another now for nearly a year and people are fed up.

“Our message is we need to hold the line.

"The vaccination programme is moving at pace, 200,000 doses given here in Dorset alone, well over 10 million given nationally. We are now finally seeing infection rates and hospital admissions falling at a healthy rate.

“But next week we are still in lockdown. I am discouraging and asking people not to come to Dorset if you live outside the county. Please don’t come here for recreation and exercise – that is not permitted within the restrictions.”

From January 6 to January 17, 40 per cent of the fines handed out went to people who lived outside Dorset.

Examples of recent breaches include people travelling from as far away as London to surf off the Dorset coast and five people were fined after driving from Leicester to Lulworth to look at the coastline.

Close eye on the roads

Mr Vaughan added: “We still have Operation Tattoo in place which is dedicated patrols.They and more routine patrols will be asked to pay passing attention to the A31, A350 and the A35 coming into the county.

“We are getting 300 or more reports into the control room every week for Covid breaches, so the public are being very vigilant and we are being very vigilant.

“We are not setting up road blocks but we are paying passing attention.

“We will be stopping people who are travelling into the county and asking them why they are coming into Dorset. If they don’t have a valid reason or excuse, they will be fined and sent home.”

Mr Vaughan said he sensed "a bit of fatigue" in the public in relation to restrictions, but added his praise for the vast majority of Dorset residents are doing their bit and being compliant.

There are just a few people who continue to break the rules, with occasional reported of house parties, but there have been no further protests, the chief constable said.

In a joint message, Dorset authorities asking people to stay local and ‘explore from your door’ in half term.

Swanage and Wareham Voice: Constable chief James Vaughan, inset, has spoken about policing Covid breaches in the weeks ahead

Covid impact on Dorset Police

Mr Vaughan said the force's resourcing levels are still 'green'.

Dorset Police sees dozens of officers with Covid at any one time and there have been a few cases of officers being hospitalised, however, at present, there are no officers in hospital with coronavirus.

Many officers and staff are continuing to work from home while self-isolating, with 800 statements taken online by the force during the current lockdown.

The chief constable said this was a sign of police adapting and the remote methods had proved to be quite "effective and efficient".

Going forward this could lead to Dorset Police reviewing how it utilises its estate in the long-term.

Targeted messaging

While residents in Dorset will see the strong messaging on not coming to visit the county at present, Mr Vaughan said it was important to try and spread the warnings to the places where people were travelling from.

"We are targeting social media and other media outlets outside of the area to try and make sure the message gets there," he said.

"It is all well and good messaging our own local population, who are broadly compliant and are allowed to go to their local places in Dorset, we are keen to get the messages out to the large cities and other areas.

"My message to them is please don't come to Dorset.

"Explore near to your home, explore from your door and we will be vigilant here in Dorset to ensure that the Dorset population remain safe and we continue to make an impact on infection rates and death rates here in the county."