New police teams hit the streets of Northern Ireland as budget cuts bite
The first of the PSNI's cost-cutting Local Policing Teams (LPTs) begin their work today.
Communities in Armagh city, Banbridge and Craigavon will road test the new structure set up as a result of multi-million pound budget cuts.
The first LPTs will be based in Lurgan and Armagh and supported by a reduced number of Neighbourhood Policing Teams (NPTs) in the area.
NPTs across Northern Ireland have been cut from more than 80 to just 34 in recent months and it is hoped that LPTs will fill the gap left behind by neighbourhood police.
PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin said that "significant" budget pressures and the new council structure meant that the force had to find new ways of keeping people safe.
He said: "As a result we developed a new model of policing to use our resources in the most efficient and effective way possible and decided to move away from the current mix of response and neighbourhood policing.
"In order to meet this commitment we have begun a phased roll-out, which started today in Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon District."
It is hoped that by October 1 there will be 26 LPTs across Northern Ireland working alongside locally-based detectives and 34 NPTs based in areas with higher crime levels and deprivation.
ACC Martin said that the new LPTs would respond to calls, conduct investigations and deal with community problems, as well as providing advice and reassurance and spending time learning what most affects communities to improve safety and quality of life.
He said that individual officers would be expected to take geographic ownership of a particular area and develop an in-depth local knowledge by engaging with civic leaders, clergy and community groups.
ACC Martin also revealed that the PSNI was reviewing the number of police stations it operates throughout Northern Ireland in light of a change in the way the public interacts with the force.
He said: "I would like to reassure the public that policing remains a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week operation and we will be there at people's time of need.
"We can be contacted 24 hours a day on either 101 or in an emergency via the 999 system."
"All normal policing will carry on, we will patrol in vehicles and on foot, carry out searches, arrest criminals, and the public will continue to see police on a daily basis," he added.