CHIEF Inspector Nicky Thompson, Area Commander for Coleraine, is seeking the views of the local community on proposals to review the viability of Garvagh and Portrush police stations.
Chief Inspector Thompson (PICTURED RIGHT) said: “A final decision has not been made. However, people will be aware that we have been carrying out a major review of police buildings across Northern Ireland.
“As part of that review, we have had to look very closely at all of the stations in the District to ensure we are using all of our resources, including buildings, in the most effective and efficient way to ensure we provide the best possible personal, professional and protective policing service to the local community.
“In Northern Ireland we have a pattern of police stations unlike any other part of the United Kingdom. The current police estate remains 70% bigger in comparison to other UK police services of comparable size. It reflects the demands of a very different era in policing.
“Our aim is that policing should be a part of the local community. However, underused buildings will not achieve this, investment in police officers and staff working in the local community will.
“Overall levels of reported crime in Northern Ireland are at 12-year low. This reduction has been delivered by the public working in partnership with police officers, not by police buildings.
“The public are increasingly engaging with Police in different ways – from online reporting of non-emergency and hate crime, or contacting local Neighbourhood Policing Teams directly on telephone numbers provided on our website.
“We are using modern social networking methods, such as our well established PSNI North Coast Facebook page, to keep communities informed of policing and safety issues.
“As a result of people increasingly using these alternative means to interact with police, fewer people are visiting or using police stations.
“The introduction of BlackBerry smartphones which have now been distributed to over 4,000 frontline police officers, has also reduced the need for officers to return to a police station to complete administrative tasks. This has already increased the amount of patrol time per officer per shift by over 15% - meaning an extra hour per officer, per shift is spent on the street, in the community they serve.
“As with all other UK police services and publicly funded bodies, the PSNI has undertaken to deliver £135 million in efficiency savings back to the government over the next four years.
“As part of our agreed plan to deliver these savings, which was previously submitted to the Northern Ireland Policing Board, we must deliver a £2.2 million saving in the estate baseline budget in order to protect frontline staff and services. This means we cannot continue to fund the current size of our police estate.
“My command team and I are committed to listening to people in the communities we serve. I assure you that a decision to recommend the closure of a station is not taken lightly.
“I can understand that some may take comfort in having a police station nearby. However, modern policing is about people, not buildings.
“As part of the consultation process, public meetings will be held at:
Garvagh and District Development Association Building, Main Street, Garvagh on Wednesday 7 March.
Portrush Town Hall on Tuesday 6 March.
Both meetings will be held from 6.30pm to 8.30pm. Senior officers will be present to discuss the review and hear local comments.
Chief Inspector Thompson continued: “I want to have a constructive debate with the people of Garvagh, Portrush and surrounding areas about the way forward.
“I want to talk about how policing is currently delivered and how it would continue to be delivered if the police stations are closed.
“I encourage everyone with an interest in or influence on policing to participate in the debate.
You can do so by attending the meeting, writing to the District Commander at Ballymena Police Station, 26 Galgorm Road, Ballymena BT43 5EX or by email to HDistrictConsultation@psni.pnn.police.uk.”
The consultation process will continue until Monday 12 March.