ACT's State Emergency Services personnel have been asked to support police in managing the roadside checks and helping to prevent the spread of coronavirus into the territory from current "red zones" in NSW.
The officer in charge of Monday's roadside operational response, Superintendent Rohan Smith, confirmed that a request had been made for staffing assistance with the ACT Emergency Services Agency and the Australian Defence Force, but indicated that the SES would be the most likely service to provide initial support.
As heavy rain sheeted down on Monday afternoon, dozens of police, including officers from Traffic Operations, general duties, and even the AFP's protective services division - the latter usually used to patrol the airports and embassies - were out on duty at roadside border control points on major arterials leading into Canberra.
Sutton Road, which links Pialligo Avenue with the Federal Highway, and the Federal Highway itself, were the two entry points being checked on Monday afternoon, with a lengthy hour-long traffic delays being experienced on the main inward southbound arterial into Canberra.
The border checkpoints are raised and lowered in accordance with a police operational strategy, similar to that of roadside random breath testing stations.
At 8.30am on Monday, the southbound lanes of the Federal Highway were clear and open, with the traffic management equipment stacked in the median strip ready for deployment. Seven hours later, the checkpoint was in place and the traffic at a crawl.
ACT police have been handed a difficult task of managing the border controls, with the current staff at the checkpoints redeployed from other duties and supplemented by 31 probationary officers straight out of the AFP College at Barton.
As the border duty days climb, the major challenge for ACT police will be staffing management, with officers required to be stood down before accumulating too many excess hours and incurring expensive overtime.
Meanwhile, the demand for officers at the usual community crime and policing scenes, such as burglaries, stolen property, shoplifting and property damage, continues undiminished across the territory's patrol zones.
However, relief may come as early as Tuesday, when the ACT government will announce whether border restrictions to the coronavirus "red zones" of Greater Sydney, the Central Coast and Wollongong will remain in place.
"ACT Policing is currently talking to the ADF and ESA about a range of strategies and support personnel that might be able to assist us with this," Superintendent Smith said.
Under current ACT Health restrictions, any ACT residents who have been in these zones and are travelling back into the territory need to fill out the online declaration before they return and enter quarantine, also monitored by the police, for 14 days. Any ACT residents returning home from outside the zones can enter without quarantining.
Non-ACT residents who have been in the same zones are not permitted to enter the ACT without an exemption.
Superintendent Smith described the police operational plans for managing the border checkpoints as "scaleable" in nature and "not dissimilar" to those strategies used for roadside random breath testing.
While he wouldn't be drawn on when and where the checkpoints would be set up, the focus was on roads to the north of Canberra given that was where the current NSW COVID-19 hotspots were located.
"We will be anytime, anywhere, anyplace and cover a range of points at any given time," he said.
"We are catching people trying to sneak through; there are people without exemptions trying to enter the ACT. [Motorists] are being turned around."
By Monday mid-afternoon, ACT police had "turned around" 147 people that didn't have valid exemptions to enter the ACT, and 219 ACT residents entering the territory from the affected area had their details recorded and gone into mandatory quarantine. About 4500 vehicles have been checked on the Federal Highway over the past few days.
"We are providing a level of risk mitigation regarding COVID compliance," he said.
The issue for police and ACT Health is that any driver keen to avoid quarantine, with access to onboard apps and a reasonable knowledge of the ACT's road systems would not find it difficult to "rat-run" a route into the territory. Police admitted there were between 60-70 routes into the ACT from NSW.
Supt Smith said "on the first day or so" the restrictions had caught some travellers unawares but that situation had now changed.