Police and council cracking down on large gatherings in St Albans to prevent Covid spike

Police were called at 11.45pm on Saturday to report loud music coming from Heartwood Forest near San

Police were called at 11.45pm on Saturday to report loud music coming from Heartwood Forest near Sandridge, on the outskirts of St Albans. Officers attended and entered the forest on foot where they located a group of approximately 100 young people gathered in a clearing. They dispersed the crowd and remained in the area to ensure the group did not relocate to a different part of the forest. On further investigation, a generator and music equipment was seized along with quantities of class A and B drugs. A significant amount of intelligence has been recorded and enquiries are ongoing. Picture: St Albans Police - Credit: Archant

St Albans could be heading for a Covid crisis if people continue flouting government guidelines.

That is the stark warning from councillors troubled by repeated breaches of social distancing and other restrictions across the district.

They include house parties like one in Fleevtille on Saturday night, and a rave at Heartwood Forest on the same date, which saw police disperse 100 people and seize generators, music equipment and Class A and B drugs.

The news comes as the government bans social gatherings of more than six people in England from Monday, with people who ignore police fined £100, doubling with each offence to a maximum of £3,200.

Council leader Chris White said: “I am becoming increasingly concerned that there is a growing belief that we are in a post-Covid world. This is far from the case and infection rates are rising in many parts of the country, including Herts.

“People must not relax: queueing outside a pub with no social distancing or masks, such as I saw myself on Friday, will greatly increase the likelihood of infections and ultimately, especially for elderly and vulnerable people, a risk to life.

“The same goes for attending parties, raves or other large gatherings. The district and county councils have written jointly to a number of pubs.

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“We are also taking steps to improve social distancing in the market, after concerns raised on Saturday. But it’s all of us who need to take note. Wear a mask. Avoid taking risks.”

Enforcement action will be taken on illegal events and this can include fixed penalties of up to £10,000 on those organising them and penalties on everyone attending.

Herts police are working closely with partners, countywide and at district level, to address the issue of large gatherings.

Ch Supt Richard Liversidge said: “Everyone has a role to play limiting the outbreak by following the regulations, including those about gatherings which are now limited to SIX people both indoors and outside.

“Officers will continue to be out in communities - engaging, explaining and encouraging people to act responsibly. We will take enforcement action where necessary.

“Although we are no longer living in full lockdown everyone must be mindful that coronavirus is still a real threat to our health.

“Nationally, specific areas have been forced back into lockdown due to a significant increase in infection rates and, more locally, here in Hertfordshire, Public Health experts have issued warnings about an increase in Covid cases, especially among younger people. Covid has not gone away and those who attend large gatherings are putting themselves and everyone they come into contact with at risk, including their relatives and friends.

““The vast majority of people have been doing the right thing for the sake of the community but we will take enforcement action where required.

“If you organise unlawful gatherings you could be fined £10,000 and for those in attendance a fine of £100. If you have information about a planned unlicensed event please let us know as soon as possible so that we can take action to protect our community.”

There are several indicators which may suggest that an unlicensed event such as a rave is being planned in your area – if you notice any of these, even if they may seem minor or insignificant, please report it via online webchat at herts.police.uk/contactInform the police if you see the following:

* Social media messages advertising a large gathering

* People unloading sound equipment

* Cropped bolts on gates

* Flattened or disturbed hedgerows car

* People in vehicles stopping to look into a field

* People climbing over a fence or gate to look into a field

* Vehicles entering fields or open spaces