Belfast Telegraph

PSNI station closures will allow more officers on the ground, says force

By Deborah McAleese

Ten years ago, 140 police stations were operational within cities, towns and villages across Northern Ireland.

Today just two stations remain open 24 hours a day,, Musgrave Street in Belfast and Strand Road in Londonderry. Another 59 stations have limited opening hours.

The future of 24 stations is now also under review as the PSNI's estate continues to wither away.

Several of these stations face closure, while others look set to have their opening hours reduced further.

With a terrorist threat that has remained at severe for several years and now the revelations that the PIRA is still in existence, many believe the reduction in the police estate has been too quick and too soon.

Critics believe the closure of so many stations is the PSNI effectively withdrawing from rural areas and that fewer stations reduces the ability to deal with the terrorist threat.

The PSNI, however, argues that static buildings do not deliver a policing service and that it is better to close the stations and use the savings to put officers on the ground.

With so much pressure on the policing budget, closing stations is one of the quickest ways to free up several million pounds a year.

Stations currently under threat from closure are Castlederg, Portrush, Cushendall, Ballyclare, Carrickfergus, Tandragee, Edward Street in Portadown and Beragh.

The opening hours of another 16 stations are also under review, including the 24-hour station at Strand Road in Derry.

This will leave just one station in Northern Ireland open on a 24-hour basis.

The proposed closures and changes to opening hours have to be endorsed by the Policing Board first.

The PSNI says its new model of frontline policing is geared towards 'keeping people safe' by using resources in the most efficient and effective way possible.

Despite the closure of more stations, Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin has insisted that "policing remains a 24-hour, seven days a week operation".

"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," he said.

Mr Martin added: "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."

The Assistant Chief Constable said nearly all policing services are delivered outside of stations.

"Policing isn't about buildings it is about officers working with the community in the community. Indeed, we recently reduced the opening hours at local stations and this has not led to a reduction in the level of service delivered," said Mr Martin.

He added that fewer people are visiting or using police stations and officers are now engaging with their local communities in a variety of ways.

Belfast Telegraph


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