Jeff Cuthbert is the police and crime commissioner for Gwent. He represents Labour.
This month we mark a full year since the first UK-wide lockdown was introduced. Caerphilly was one of the first areas in Wales to go back into a further localised lockdown in September last year, meaning that residents have now had travel restricted to essential only for more than six months. I would like to thank most of you that have followed the guidelines during this time. You have played a crucial part in supporting the NHS and keeping people safe.
Policing this pandemic has been incredibly hard. Some residents feel that policing must be tougher on those who break the rules. Conversely there are others who disagree with the principle of restrictions to movement and socialising, and that there should be no enforcement at all.
We are never going to be able to please everybody. But I am reassured that, according to my recent survey, a majority of residents in Caerphilly agree that on balance Gwent Police’s strategy of engagement, education and encouragement, with enforcement only being used as a last resort, is the right one.
It is important that we don’t forget the huge personal risk our frontline officers and staff continue to face every day during this pandemic and I would like to thank all Gwent Police officers and staff for everything they have done over the last year.
One of the many issues they have been dealing with that has actually got worse during the pandemic is illegal off-roading. I have been receiving regular emails from residents in Caerphilly about this for some time. Illegal off-roading is often seen as a victimless crime but that couldn’t be further from the truth. As well as the damage to the countryside, illegal off-roaders regularly cause injury and distress to grazing animals and disrupt farming activity which is a real cause of concern to our farmers and rural communities. Many of these vehicles are uninsured, untaxed and shouldn’t be ridden on the roads, meaning normal road users are also being put at risk.
I am pleased to report that recent operations in Caerphilly have seen Gwent Police seize 15 off-road bikes, report 10 people for summons for illegal riding and arrested a person for dangerous driving.
This is an incredibly hard crime to police and current police powers to take preventative measures are limited. However, by working with our partners and neighbouring police forces we are taking action and sending a clear message that this activity will not be tolerated here in Gwent. If you have information about anyone you believe is using off-road vehicles illegally then please report it to Gwent Police.
Finally, the Police and Crime Commissioner elections take place on Thursday, May 6 this year. Police and Crime Commissioners play a crucial role in holding the Chief Constable to account and ensuring that residents receive an efficient and effective service from their police force. However you choose to vote in May, please do vote and enable your voice to be heard.
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