A LOT has changed in the way we all go about our daily lives since my last column.

Understandably, there is a lot of worry, concern and upset being felt across our communities. This is a global health pandemic – something we have never experienced in our lifetime.

However, I want you – the community of Wiltshire and Swindon – to know that your policing teams will continue to be here for you, delivering the 24-hour service you need, despite these times of high demand and uncertainty.

We remain committed to keeping people safe and whilst we know there will be challenging times ahead, we will still be answering emergency calls, maintaining a visible policing presence in our communities, investigating crime, protecting victims and putting offenders before the courts.

I am confident that my hugely dedicated teams of officers, staff and volunteers will continue to put their commitment to public service ahead of their own worries and concerns – I am hugely proud of them all and would like to publicly thank them for their dedication.

Although the new legislation introduced last week gives my officers new powers to protect the public by increasing compliance with social distancing measures, our focus here in Wiltshire will be engaging with communities, explaining the guidance and encouraging people to return home.

For us, enforcement is an additional measure and we will use these powers if necessary, but criminalising individuals will never be our first port of call. While I know that many members of the public have been keen to help us police these new measures and inform us of those who do not appear to be obeying the rules, I would like to stress that 101 and 999 must be kept clear for crime related matters. Staff in our Crime and Communication Centre are working tirelessly to ensure those who need us most are able to access the help they need so please could I ask that you do not use these processes for these reasons – we have developed an online form on our website to facilitate these reports which can be found here: https://www.wiltshire.police.uk/article/5951/Coronavirus-report-your-concerns

I am pleased to report that the vast majority of the public have been adhering to the instructions from our Prime Minister last week, and staying at home. I carried out some of my own visibility patrols around Chippenham last week and was encouraged to see quiet streets and roads. Across the county, officers have dispersed some groups of individuals who have failed to understand the importance of social distancing, but in the main, I am pleased that our communities are staying home and doing their bit to slow this virus down, protect the NHS and save lives.

Nobody really knows how long it will be before we begin to return to some kind of normality and that of course has potential to cause upset to many. Please, if you need support, there is help available and our Wiltshire Police website has a wealth of information regarding support agencies for anyone who may need it. I would also encourage you to look at the Wiltshire Council and Swindon Borough Council websites for a full list of available support.

We will continue to keep you updated about policing in your area, but please, help us and all other emergency services by staying home and staying safe.