Police crack down on non-compliance

After two weeks of lockdown, police are no longer taking "I didn't know the rules" as a valid excuse, Marc Daalder reports

Two weeks into the nationwide lockdown, the police are starting to take non-compliance seriously.

The number of prosecutions nearly tripled in 24 hours and 76 new breaches of the rules were recorded, Police Commissioner Andrew Coster told reporters.

Coster said "the majority of New Zealanders are following all the advice and obligations of the Level 4 restrictions". Nonetheless, there have been 376 breaches of the rules, 45 prosecutions, 309 warnings and 13 youth referrals.

This could worsen over the coming weekend as people take declining case numbers and the Easter holiday as an excuse to break the rules, Coster said. In response, police will deploy checkpoints, particularly around popular vacation spots where Kiwis may have baches they wish to travel to for the long weekend.

The steep rise in breaches and prosecutions is part of a changing strategy for the police.

"We have seen over the first period a lot of people who genuinely didn't understand, who needed to be guided, educated on the controls in place," Coster said.

"We're now at a stage where most people do know and are doing the right thing, so the people we come across who aren't, more often are likely to be flouting the rules and therefore warrant some kind of further action. The excuses are often not plausible. People know. The guidelines about what you can and can't do are very clear."

Coster also highlighted a disturbing trend of people with symptoms of Covid-19 or who say they have tested positive spitting, sneezing and coughing on police staff, supermarket workers and healthcare workers.

"The behaviour of a small minority of people in targeting police staff or members of the public by coughing or spitting is extremely disappointing and concerning," he said.

"We've identified spitting as an escalating risk to both police officers and the community. There have been multiple reports of hospital staff and supermarket workers being spat on or being threatened in the same manner. Since the introduction of the Level 4 restrictions, eight of our people have had to self-isolate after being spat at by people who either said they had tested positive for Covid-19 or who had symptoms of being unwell."

"If someone does spit or cough on another person and infect them, they risk being charged with 'infecting with disease' under the Crimes Act and face a penalty of up to 14 years imprisonment should they be found guilty."

Coster also said individuals who spat on others but didn't infect them could still be charged with assault.

Overall, less crime has been committed during the lockdown, Coster said, but there was a small but statistically significant rise in family violence. There have been 37,000 reports of non-compliance with the lockdown rules from the public.

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