THE HEAD of Thames Valley Police is expecting a rise in the number of domestic abuse calls to the force now that the country is on lockdown.

The chief constable, John Campbell, said that domestic violence and fraud will continue to be a priority for police officers, as ‘criminals decide to change their behaviours’ to take advantage of coronavirus.

He said: “We are seeing and monitoring very closely the issues around domestic abuse, we anticipate that it might increase, and we will deal with that robustly in a way that you would expect us to. At the same time we are offering advice and guidance about some emerging patterns around fraud particularly when people are spending a lot of time online.”

He made the announcement as part of his statement to the public yesterday when he addressed the new powers that officers will have to crack down on social gatherings.

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He said that there is likely to be three different groups of people: people who stay at home and follow the government rules, others who are ‘thoughtless’ and need to be told again, and a third group who will actively try and break the law.

He explained: “I will anticipate that the vast majority of people will comply because we are seeing that already, there will be a group of people who are thoughtless and will need encouragement and advice about the new way that we want them to be and behave and then there will be those who are wilfully disobeying and certainly that’s where our focus will be around enforcement.”

He added: “But if that doesn’t work and we have to look at increasing enforcement then that is what we will do because ultimately its about protecting all of our communities from this virus and as I say protecting the NHS.”

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Mr Campbell also said that the force are still waiting for details from the government about what they can do to stop people congregating.

He said: “At the moment we are expecting fixed penalty notices, which will be familiar to many members of the public, that we use in a variety of policing environments such as road policing or public orders so yes we anticipate that it will be fixed penalty notices we are not sure what those fines or levy will be and we are awaiting the details tomorrow.”

He said that times were changing, explaining: "From a policing point of view we recognise that we are moving into different areas of enforcement in a way that we historically haven't seen and that the public are anxious about this. What I'll be saying to my officers is that we want to approach this with common sense and empathy and we will encourage and advise members of the public to comply but we will enforce where necessary."