Chief Constable Anthony Bangham said: “Today, in the light of further developments at both a national and local level, and taking full account of the announcement yesterday evening by the Prime Minister, I wanted to reassure the communities of West Mercia that we will continue to work hard to keep you safe and support you through the coming weeks.
“We are working with our partners across local authorities, emergency services, health and local charities to ensure we provide, not only an effective policing service, but a range of other services and support mechanisms for our communities, particularly for the vulnerable and those most in need.
“This is a national emergency and we have now taken the decision, along with our partners, to declare this as a major incident across Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Shropshire and Telford.
“Like everyone, we as an organisation, are also feeling the impact of the COVID-19 virus. However, please be assured that we are taking effective steps to mitigate this impact to ensure essential activities and services are maintained.
“Following the Prime Minister’s announcement we are working with Government and policing colleagues at a national level to fully understand and see how best these new measures will be enforced should this be required. But I want to reassure our communities that any action will be carried out in a professional and proportionate manner.
“I understand that this might temporarily alter our relationship with the public and our communities, and therefore I implore each and every one of you to adhere to the instructions given by Government as it would be preferable not to have to take any enforcement action. However should it be required, we will take the necessary action as we must always make the safety of the vulnerable our priority. Please work with us, our partners, your neighbours and wider communities to overcome the challenges we all face during the next few weeks with patience, compassion and understanding.
“We are here 24/7 and will respond to you as and when you need us but we have today moved to a more critical level of policing in our force and some functions will have to reduce in order for us to reprioritise our emergency response. We understand that these new restrictions will also place added pressure and strain on families and individuals but there is support for you. If you feel threatened or in danger, or you need the police for any reason we are on the end of the phone. We do want to ensure we are keeping our emergency 999 number and our emergency responders free and available for those in need, so if you need to report non-urgent crime or information, please use our website and report online.
“Thank you to all our communities for your patience, understanding and the wonderful neighbourhood spirit that we are seeing demonstrated across West Mercia. Keep looking after each other and together we will be successful through this difficult time.”
Police and Crime Commissioner John Campion adds: “We all have our part to play in easing this situation and reducing the burden on the police. I have confidence that West Mercia Police will do what is necessary, but change in behaviour is what will get us through. People will start to see more uniformed officers out on the streets playing a key role in keeping communities safe. I urge people to heed the advice given by the Government and police to reduce the pressure on the emergency services where possible.
“I am reassured by the steps being taken by the force during these uncertain times, and will continue to work closely with them and ensure they have the resources they need to support our community as we beat this virus together.”