Police plan for summer tourist boom in Swanage and across Dorset

Police presence is being heightened in Swanage and Purbeck ahead of an expected bumper summer of tourists in 2023, as senior officers have taken note of residents’ concern over policing levels.

Chief superintendent Heather Dixey, speaking to Swanage.News, insisted that Swanage is a safe town where crime statistics were low, but was keen to reassure residents that officers were in the area and would always respond to major incidents.

Packed crowds at Police meeting in Swanage

Police visibility is to be raised in Swanage following concerns raised at a packed meeting

Steps to raise police visibility in Purbeck

A seasonal summer policing plan across Dorset will see patrol cars based at Wareham dedicated to Swanage and Purbeck to raise the force’s visibility in the area.

Police have already begun an awareness drive with businesses in Swanage town centre to help them cope with a reported rise in shoplifting and will target repeat offenders.

There was also a promise that any illegal summer raves would be dealt with immediately and harshly, as with the May bank holiday weekend involving 1,500 party goers near Corfe Castle.

A dedicated police constable in Swanage from the end of June 2023 has also been tasked with making himself visible in town and helping to decrease the public perception that antisocial behaviour is on the rise.

Senior police officers in Dorset have been made aware that residents in Swanage were concerned about a perceived lack of police presence in town, as witnessed at a public meeting on Monday 12th June 2023 attended by almost 200 people.

Plans are already being put into place through the summer policing scheme to allow for a quick response to major incidents while improving visibility in tourist areas.

Chief superintendant Heather Dixey

Chief superintendent Heather Dixey is aware of feelings in Swanage

“Crime statistics in Swanage are low”

Chief superintendent Heather Dixey said:

“Officers are dedicated to patrol Swanage and Purbeck, though it is quite a big area; we have a local neighbourhood response which is based in Wareham which does deploy into Swanage.

“The crime statistics in Swanage are low, it is a really safe place. I’m aware of the feelings in the community, which were addressed by our police and crime commissioner recently, but it is a safe place and we need to make sure that local people feel that there is a response within their area.

“The local neighbourhood team and the local inspector are aware of the concerns on shoplifting in Swanage and are already working with businesses.

“They are going back to speak with them and support them, to help prevent some of these cases from occurring, offering crime advice to get rid of some issues and provide a policing response where we have known offenders committing volumes of crimes.”

Police call centres have had to deal with up to 639 silent calls a day

Police call centres in Dorset have had to deal with up to 639 silent calls a day

Sudden spike in silent 999 calls

However the pressure on summer policing resources in Dorset is being increased by a sudden spike in silent 999 calls, believed to be down to a mobile phone upgrade which has made it not only possible, but also easy to make an emergency call by mistake.

Now officers have had to appeal to Android phone users to stay on the line if it happens and not to hang up in embarrassment – as all unanswered calls need to be investigated by police at an average of 20 minutes a time.

While it is a national problem, Dorset Police have just released figures showing the impact of the technological glitch.

The number of accidental 999 calls in Dorset for May 2023 rose to 3,067 – up from 1,450 in May 2022, a rise of 112 percent, and still showing no signs of slowing down, with a new record high of 639 silent calls in one day being set on Saturday 10th June 2023.

Police block off road to rave (

Police co-ordinated a multi agency response to shut down an illegal rave near Corfe Castle

One in every five calls were accidental

Commenting on the figures showing an increase in silent 999 calls in Dorset, superintendent Pete Browning said:

“Last month one in every five calls to our 999 service were accidental and this has had a significant impact on the force. I am urging members of the public that if you accidentally dial 999, please don’t hang up.

“If possible, I would ask you to please stay on the line and let the operator know it was an accident and that you don’t need any assistance.

“Silent calls to 999 are never just ignored. Contact officers need to spend valuable time checking our computer systems about any previous interactions you may have had with us and trying to call you back to check whether you need help.

“With each accidental call taking approximately 20 minutes to resolve, our control room staff spent over 1,000 hours in May – equivalent to four extra staff working an eight-hour shift every day – purely dealing with accidental calls, time which could have been spent helping victims of crime.”

Rural crime team
Dorset police

Dorset’s rural crime team can be deployed anywhere in the county to cope with incidents

Tourist surge boosts incidents to 700 a day

The early arrival of summer sun has already boosted the numbers of tourists arriving in Dorset, with police officers having to attend an average of 700 incidents a day in the county, of which up to 150 may be live at any time meaning that responses had to be prioritised according to public safety.

Neighbourhood policing teams have their deployment planned through summer to provide community reassurance, local police officers are on patrol 24/7 to respond to any incidents, hubs across Dorset, including Wareham, send out patrol officers, and smaller satellite hubs such as Swanage will have community officers working from there.

In addition to that, police force assets like the rural crime team, firearms teams and drone teams can be called on to move across the force if the need arises.

Purbeck Police

Purbeck Police hold regular public engagement events in Swanage

“We will not tolerate criminality”

Chief superintendent Heather Dixey said:

“We have a seasonal summer plan for Dorset as we very much anticipate that we are going to see a huge influx of visitors into the county and need to be able to respond and be flexible with our forces across the county so that we can cope with that demand.

“Visibility is important, people do like to see a police officer so they do feel reassured, and we try our best to be as visible as possible. But major incidents do take a lot of resources and sometimes we have to pull officers out of other areas.

“We see large numbers of tourists during summer – and why wouldn’t we, we’re a lovely county. We have very well rehearsed plans for the extra tourists with police, local authorities and businesses, they very much welcome and expect the extra people.

“Although we see the extra volume of people, we don’t see the crime rate go up by the same amount. The vast majority of people who come to us are respectful and the county remains a very safe place.

“However, we are not a place that will tolerate criminality. If you come here to commit crime, we will tackle and target you. We won’t take that in Dorset.”

Dorset Police are always ready to deal with major unexpected events

Chief superintendent Heather Dixey says Dorset Police will not tolerate criminality

“I’m very comfortable we have the resources”

Chief superintendent Heather Dixey added that the police response to the illegal music event on Saturday 27th May 2023, on land at Wytch Farm near Corfe Castle, demonstrated how a planned police response could deal with major unexpected issues.

She said:

“It did take a lot of resources, but within 48 hours we had dispersed that event. Sometimes people might think we would let it play out, but if someone comes into Dorset and sets up an unlicensed music event such as the rave at Corfe Castle, we absolutely will deal with it.

“There was a very good multi-agency response to that, we brought in fire, ambulance, the landowners and local authorities, and we called on officers from adjoining regions to come and support us to make sure that event was stopped and dispersed.

“I’m very comfortable that we’ve got the resources in Dorset throughout the summer, but we’ve also identified peak weekends where we know we’re going to see an increase in visitors.

“We always anticipate that we’re going to have a rise in calls over the summer, but that’s all part of our seasonal planning. We always put resources in and enough staff to be able to cope with that demand.”

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