Coffs Clarence Police Chief Inspector Joanne Reid addresses the media.
Coffs Clarence Police Chief Inspector Joanne Reid addresses the media.

POLICE: ‘We want to protect … not penalise people’

THERE may be a renewed focus on fines for infringements of public health orders, but for Officer in Charge of Grafton Police Station Chief Inspector Joanne Reid, she just wants to protect the community.

With calls to the police station rising as case numbers increase, Insp Reid said vigilance was now as important as ever.

The Coffs/Clarence command have a COVID task force whose job it is to check on people identified by NSW Health as needing to be in isolation.

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“They’re following up on return travellers, or travellers that may be in our area from known hot spots,” Insp Reid said.

“We are ensuring that they are isolating and complying.”

However, police have also continued their work checking on businesses and in particular licensed premises for adherence to health rules.

And while they often drop in unannounced to places, Insp Reid said nothing had changed in their approach to policing, despite the acceleration in cases.

Chief Inspector Joanne Reid.
Chief Inspector Joanne Reid.

“It’s random inspections, random checks, proprietors may not even know we’re coming. Some of it will be overt and some covert,” she said.

“For us it’s been ongoing, we’ve got enough licensed premises that we can be fairly consistent with it — and we’re in touch with the local health district for updates, but we’re not changing how we approach it because of the change in numbers.”

Insp Reid said she had been happy with both the public and business response to the rules, and said they would investigate every report they had relating to the health regulations.

“People are ringing us directly at the station, or triple-0, and I have noticed an increase in these sort of jobs as things were developing here and in Victoria,” she said.

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“People’s awareness of it and fears are becoming more heightened, and most of the calls are made in good faith, but we’ll follow all of those through.

“We want to protect our community, we don’t want to penalise them, but if we drop the ball the consequences are huge.”

Insp Reid said reports could be made direct to the police station, through Crimestoppers or through the police portal.