DEDICATED Covid-19 police patrols have been launched across Dorset to crack down on people breaking lockdown rules.

The patrols, under the name Operation Tattoo, will see a dedicated Covid car operating across the force, seven days a week to deal with any coronavirus-related issues, provide support to partner agencies and encourage members of the public to abide by restrictions and legislation.

There will also be extended cover with another unit joining the patrol between 4pm and midnight every day, with further support during the same time at weekends.

The units will have a specific remit to deal with Covid-related calls to encourage, educate and engage with the public, with enforcement action taken if restriction breaches take place.

Superintendent Heather Dixey said: "We know dealing with these national restrictions is difficult for our communities, but we must all comply with these rules and not step outside of the legislation.

"Our communities have largely been compliant throughout this year, but we must continue to do the right thing and not break the law – potentially putting many lives at risk.

"Our public quite rightly expects steps to be taken to protect them and maintain their safety and if that means taking swift and decisive enforcement action we will."

Last week saw 164 calls made to the Dorset Police command centre, an increase on the first week of Tier 4 national restrictions, and more than 30 Fixed Penalty Notices issued for breaches of legislation.

Police are using the 'four Es' approach - to engage, explain, encourage and enforce, in that order, with enforcement as a last resort.

Superintendent Heather Dixey said: "We want the communities of Dorset, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole to be reassured we are doing everything possible to provide visibility and deal with Covid-related calls being made to Dorset Police.

"Operation Tattoo units will continue with a four Es approach to dealing with Covid-19 issues and we hope the public will respect advice they are given if they are in contravention of legislation which is there to protect them and our communities.

"However, subject to specific exemptions, it is illegal to gather in groups of more than two people or have gatherings of mixed households. If police receive reports of this and need to take enforcement action we can and will to prevent spread of the virus.

"My hope is the extra community presence will ensure people are aware of the legislation and what they need to do to protect themselves and their loved ones. This is now and not forever – take the steps to comply now and we are much more likely to see restrictions lifted more quickly."

Operation Tattoo will also be working with Covid marshals who, as previously reported, are providing a visible present in town centres and high streets to encourage national Covid rules are followed.