Praise for way police coped in busy North Devon week

POLICE in Northern Devon have been praised for their handling of one of the busiest weeks in the local Force s history. In excess of 40 officers covered last month s Tour of Britain cycle race and Barnstaple Fair and Carnival. Both events have been hailed

POLICE in Northern Devon have been praised for their handling of one of the busiest weeks in the local Force's history.

In excess of 40 officers covered last month's Tour of Britain cycle race and Barnstaple Fair and Carnival. Both events have been hailed a huge success by organisers, senior councillors and members of the public.

"I've never known a week like it," Superintendant Kevin Harris told the Gazette. "We've had a major cycle race go through North Devon and have carried out a hugely successful anti-social behaviour initiative during Barnstaple Fair week.

"On top of that, the Wednesday before,, my officers we were called to six traffic incidents - including a fatality on the A39 at Westleigh - and we dealt with all of them in an hour-and-a-half."

While police supported Devon County Council with road closures on all the major junctions and dealt with massive public safety issues as stage six of the Tour of Britain passed through North Devon, extra officers from Barnstaple's Neighbourhood Beat Team were on patrol throughout fair week to ensure the fun wasn't ruined by troublemakers.

Police issued six Section 30 dispersal orders, anti-social behaviour legislation issued in partnership with North Devon Council for the duration of the four-day fair.

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The week passed largely without incident, with only two people arrested, one for a breach of the order, and anther for a public order offence that related to one of the orders.

"What a fabulous week we had, supported by very smart and professional looking police officers and PCSOs," said Supt Harris. "It was great to see so many officers out and about in Barnstaple re-enforcing the traditional image of police officers in pointy hats, with bright yellow coats and black legs.

"I was at the fair myself off-duty with my family, and I was extremely proud to see such professional friendly interaction with all members of the public."

North Devon Council Leader Des Brailey said he was "very pleased" with the way police handled the fair.

"There was little or no trouble because the police were in evidence but not obtrusive; they melted into the background," he said.

"Residents to whom I have spoken said it was very well organised and felt very comfortable at the event this year. People noticed the police out and about in the town and consequently any problems were minor in nature because of officers' positive attitude.

"Any very minor incidents were dealt with very quickly thanks to the Section 30 legislation; it was a credit to police planning."

Cllr Brailey said the Section 30 legislation had proved beneficial and that the council has recently streamlined the process of obtaining the legislation.

"Once requested by police, the order can now be sanctioned by an executive officer and ward member and no longer has to be approved by the full council," he said.

Supt Harris said that historically, the fair had often been "problematic".

"There have been incidents in the past when there has been rowdy behaviour not appropriate among families and children, much of it alcohol induced," he said.

"But dispersal powers were first used by the Force four-or-five years ago and it is approach we will seek to use again in partnership with North Devon Council; not as a response to an existing problem, but as a measure to ensure problems don't start in the first place."

Cllr Brailey said he was confident that police would continue to work well under Supt Harris, who returned to North Devon as the area's police commander in July.

"Kevin Harris is a breath of fresh air and I am confident he is going to be very good for North Devon," he said.

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