Four major police stations are to be closed to the public at night as part of Chief Constable Matt Baggott’s urgent new plans to reorganise his police service and move 600 desk-bound officers back onto the streets.
Antrim, Carrickfergus, Lisburn and Newtownabbey stations will no longer be open 24 hours to the public. The PSNI has insisted that the plans to shut the stations to the public from 11pm to 8am will not affect police response in the areas.
District Commander Henry Irvine said that during night time hours the inquiry desks at the stations will not be open for “routine business” but said that police “will continue to respond and assist anyone coming to the station in an emergency situation”.
All of the four stations will have 24 hour security personnel on duty “who can ensure that the appropriate resources are tasked in an emergency and members of the public get quick and professional assistance”.
The new opening hours at the stations will come into force from April 1 as part of the Chief Constable’s shake-up of the police service. Mr Baggott, who last year controversially scrapped the full-time reserve, is a keen advocate of neighbourhood and high visibility policing. He has vowed to free up 600 desk-bound officers by this summer and have them back out on the streets.
The move to cut the public opening hours of the stations, particularly Lisburn and Antrim which cover large geographical and highly populated areas, has raised concern that it could lead to a reduction in service.
Lisburn DUP councillor Paul Given, a member of the District Policing Partnership, said he was angry the decision was taken without any consultation with the public.
“This news is going to be met with some consternation within the local communities. I already find it difficult to get a hold of police officers in Lisburn so what will it be like from April 1? But what I am really angry about is that we were told by the PSNI that no decision would be made without consultation. But we were not consulted about it and now we have been informed by the District Commander that the plan to reduce opening hours is going ahead,” Mr Given said.
District Commander Irvine said he met with DPP representatives in September to brief them on a number of proposals, including the reduction in station opening hours. He said that following a review, the decision was taken “in the interests of the whole community”.
Mr Irvine added: “Members of the public constantly tell us that they want more police officers back on the beat to respond to the crimes that matter to them the most — anti-social behaviour, burglaries, car crime etc.
“This is about ensuring that we have the right people, in the right places, at the right time.”