Police teams prepared for Tall Ships Races challenge
A range of police teams are being drafted in to ensure 1.5 million people expected to attend Sunderland's Tall Ships Races celebrations are safe and secure.
Northumbria Police has been working with organisers of the four-day Wearside leg of the event to plan for all eventualities.
Firearms officers will be on duty, while the city’s neighbourhood policing officers will be on patrol at the festival’s main sites - the Town Moor, Port of Sunderland and St Peter’s from Wednesday, July 11 to Saturday, July 14, as well as the seafront on the Saturday.
The force’s marine unit will be on the River Wear, while the mounted and dog sections will also been seen out and about. Officers will also use bicycles to get around because the events cover such a large area.
With the country’s terrorism threat still at severe and a huge turnout expected, drawing up plans has been an extensive exercise.
Random bag searches will be carried out, while people are being advised to make sure their belongings and property are secure to reduce the chance any opportunist thieves can strike.
The force’s police cadets and mini police will also play a part, while officers trained in safeguarding will be on hand to protect the vulnerable, with wristbands to be available for children to wear in case they get lost.
Chief Superintendent Sarah Pitt will be the force’s silver commander for the event.
She said: “From a policing perspective, I’ve been involved in planning for the Tall Ships for about 16 months, so there’s a lot gone into it.
“It’s been a unique and complex plan put together with the council over a number of different sites.
“The events are taking place over a vast area and around 56 tall ships, so it’s going to be a spectacular event. It will draw in some massive crowds but it also brings in some challenges for us around safety and security and crime and disorder.
“The country’s terror threat is still at severe and we have seen incidents happen nationally and internationally and we can’t forget about that.
“There will be firearms officers walking about and we would encourage people to stop and have a chat to them, have their photos taken, and they will be a visible presence, but they are very much a contingency for me.
“Marine officers will be supporting water safety and we will also have special branch working with border forces because we do have ships coming in and that means we have to have appropriate measures.
“People will see a lot of friendly police officers who will be there to help and we will also be working in conjunction with the British Transport Police and Nexus around the trains.” She added: “We’ll be working on the roads too, so there will be some closures, and we will have a good number of people coming in on public transport.
“It could get congested on the roads, so leave extra time for your journey, and there will be plenty of park and ride spaces.
“People should have a bit of awareness about their own security and their property.
“It’s going to be a fantastic time and we hope everyone has a good time.”
The Tall Ships Races team at Sunderland City Council has said the safety of its participants and the huge crowd it will bring into the city is “paramount.”
Cabinet member for communities and culture, Councillor John Kelly, said: “Our Tall Ships Event is shaping up well with an ever growing line-up of attractions on water and across our city.
“Organising such a huge event has relied on co-operation across council departments, event partners, voluntary groups, local businesses, residents, support services and local organisations
“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has been involved so far for their dedication, help and support. This truly is a city-wide event and one that we can be rightly proud of.
“First Aid points, Lost Persons’ Points and Information Points are in each Event Zone.
“Families can get a free wristband for their children to register their contact details at the Information Points and Lost Persons’ Points.
“It’s going to be busy, so be patient, and if it gets hot don’t forget the sun cream and to keep hydrated.”
More on tips for visitors on travel and safety are available via www.tallshipssunderland.com.