Police urge public to avoid overcrowded beauty spots

The PSNI has urged people to avoid well known tourist and beauty spots after large crowds turned up on Co Down beaches and elsewhere on Monday.

PSNI North Down and Ards said significant quantities of alcohol were seized from people arriving at Crawfordsburn and Helen’s Bay beaches.

"Yesterday we had estimated crowds of 1,000 people at the beaches at Crawfordsburn and Helen’s Bay. Other Coastal areas across the District were also busy," a statement said.

"We are working closely daily with our partners in Translink, Northern Ireland Environment Agency and Ards and North Down Borough Council.

"Please use your common sense and avoid well known tourist and beauty spots today so that you protect your own and other’s health."

Alliance Party MLA for the area Andrew Muir expressed concern that young people were gathering together and were not following the guidelines.

"I was contacted by residents yesterday when I was in the Assembly about the evolving scenes here at Helen's Bay and Crawfordsburn. When I came down I was very concerned to see the volume of people," he told UTV News.

"The vast majority of young people have been very law abiding and great citizens, so to see over 200 young people gathered with no social distancing, some clearly intoxicated was really concerning."

We really need to send out a clear message here to stop coming to these beauty spots and beaches in the volumes that we've seen over recent days because it's just not safe.

Andrew Muir, Alliance MLA

Patrols were out on Tuesday to monitor these popular areas to encourage people to maintain social distancing.

Beauty spots and beaches were also busy last week as people came out to enjoy the good weather.

Officers came under attack at Ballyholme beach in Bangor on Friday leading to the arrest of four teenagers.

PSNI ACC Alan Todd told the Stormont Justice Committee that police have observed a change in the public's attitude towards the coronavirus restrictions.

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon and Justice Minister Naomi Long issued a joint statement on Tuesday afternoon asking people to act responsibly and consider if their journey is essential.

Minister Mallon said: "I would once again urge the public before travelling to consider if their journey is essential. If we don’t use common sense and follow the guidance, we are putting ourselves, our families and those around us at risk.

"This is not over and we must continue to work together while standing apart to help save lives, protect our NHS and get us back onto the road to recovery faster and safer."

Justice Minister Naomi Long said: “As time passes and we begin to emerge from lockdown it is easy to forget why restrictions were introduced in the first place.

“I want to put on record once again my support for the police, who have been doing an excellent job when it comes to engaging, explaining and encouraging the public to abide by the legislation. Enforcement has always been a last resort and officers should not be subject to threat or violence for simply doing their job and keeping people safe.

“Just because we cannot see Coronavirus doesn’t mean it isn’t a serious threat to our health and I would ask everyone to play their part in helping to defeat it. The vast majority of people have listened and have done the right thing and now is not the time for complacency.”