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Multi-agency operation to tackle anti-social behaviour in the water off Poole, Bournemouth and Christchurch

Multi-agency water-based patrols will be taking place to target anti-social and irresponsible behaviour in Poole Harbour and along beaches in Bournemouth and Christchurch into Christchurch Harbour.

Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) from Dorset Police will be teaming up with colleagues from BCP Council and Poole Harbour Commissioners on Saturday 3 July 2021 as part of the Force’s first Operation Seagoing.

The operation was launched in response to complaints and concerns from the public about anti-social behaviour involving people using personal watercrafts, including small speed boats, wet bikes and jet skis and will see targeted patrols carried out in the two areas until September.

There is a 10-knot speed limit in Poole Harbour and anyone found breaking this could be fined up to £1,000 by Poole Harbour Commissioners.

In Poole Bay beach goers and people using personal watercrafts will see yellow buoys along the seafront of BCP beaches. These are placed 200m from the shoreline and set out where people can swim safely. People using personal watercrafts are able to enter that zone, but they must ride the watercraft at six knots or less in Bournemouth and Poole and eight in Christchurch, which is a walking pace.

Police Sergeant Sophie Williams, of Poole Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: “There are a lot of very responsible personal watercraft users that already work with authorities, supplying information and intelligence against those behaving dangerously. We want people to enjoy our fantastic harbour, beaches and water this summer and we are committed to working with our partners to make sure no one comes to harm.

“Anyone using a personal watercraft needs to ensure they respect all water users, behave responsibly and be mindful that people are swimming in the sea. Some people see the harbour simply as large open space, but it is the largest natural harbour in Europe, it is home to over 300 different species of birds and 7,000 yachts are permanently moored there. It needs to be treated as an extension of the town and we wouldn’t expect people to behave like this when travelling along a high street or precinct.

“Inappropriate or dangerous use of any type of watercraft or small boat will not be tolerated in our county. If people are found to be flouting the rules we, or our partner agencies, will take robust action against them and they could end up in court and with a heavy fine.”

Anyone using a watercraft or driving a motorised boat should follow a few simple steps:
• See who else is in the water. The water is a shared space, but swimmers are hard to spot.
• Look out for wildlife. Don’t harass or cause disturbance. We have some fabulous wildlife in the sea that can be harmed by noise, speed and aggressive behaviour.  
• Observe the sea conditions. They constantly change and can be unpredictable. The tide comes in and goes out two times a day at different times with the water moving in toward the beach or moving out away from the beach. Make sure you know what direction the water is moving in throughout the day. Check tide times, weather forecast and sea conditions before you leave home.
• Watch your speed. From the shore to the yellow speed marker buoys the speed limit is six knots (assume 5mph) – they are there for a reason. Where possible, for your safety and others we would suggest you remain on the seaward of the buoys. 

Sophie Ricketts, Head of Seasonal Response at BCP Council, said: “BCP Council is working with Dorset Police, the RNLI and harbourmaster colleagues to address water based anti-social behaviour and remind water users of the relevant byelaws. We encourage all personal watercraft users to act responsibly and ensure they are mindful of swimmers and other water users.”

Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner David Sidwick said: “I am aware of the problems these small watercrafts can cause if they are used irresponsibly, and I know this can have an impact on boat users as well as people living close to our harbours and beaches. 

“People need to be aware that using small watercrafts in an irresponsible way doesn’t just cause a nuisance to others – it can be incredibly dangerous. 

“Poole Harbour is one of our county’s greatest natural resources and I’m very glad to see the Force working so closely with partner agencies on this operation, ensuring it can be enjoyed by everyone throughout the summer.” 

Poole Harbour Commissioners (PHC) Harbour Master, Captain Brian Murphy said: “Every year the majority of byelaw offences in Poole Harbour are due to the reckless behaviour of a minority of personal watercraft users. 

“PHC has had mitigation in place since personal watercrafts were first introduced to the market. This includes a designated area, byelaw enforcement, permit to operate with associated terms and conditions, CCTV, patrols including joint patrols with Dorset Police and SIFCA and signage. We have seen a significant increase in the number of permit holders over the past two years, increasing by 50 per cent each year, which seems to be aligned with the easement of COVID-19 lockdowns. 

“This large increase in numbers has resulted in a similar increase in the number of byelaw infringement reports received from patrol officers and other harbour users, which has led to additional mitigation. This includes an additional patrol officer, voluntary task force, slipway facility and manning, additional CCTV, updated signage, updated code of conduct, body cameras and an increase in joint patrols, including multi-agency work. 

“PHC very much welcomes the additional resources from other agencies to supplement existing measures.

“Every year there are a number of warning letters issued to personal watercraft users and unfortunately a number find themselves in the magistrates’ court facing significant fines and costs.  It is very important that personal watercraft users fully understand the requirements before deciding to visit Poole Harbour and therefore all personal watercraft users are encouraged to visit the PHC website or contact the harbour office on 01202 440210.”

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