I hit the phones, alongside another Sunday Times reporter, to survey the cuts to frontline services in police forces across the country.
We found that across 30 of the 43 constabularies in England and Wales, 350 of 931 public counters at stations — 38% of the total — are to be closed in the next six months.
Full text can be found on the Sunday Times website here, or after the fold.
Hundreds of police stations to be closed to the public
More than a third of police stations in England and Wales are expected to close their public counters, with many more reducing access
Police forces are closing more than a third of their stations to the public despite officers being under pressure to increase their presence on the streets.
A study by The Sunday Times reveals that across 30 of the 43 constabularies in England and Wales, 350 of 931 public counters at stations — 38% of the total — will be closed in the next six months.
When stations do remain open to the public, their hours will be reduced, with 26 of the 43 forces operating no stations around the clock. Instead, the public will be advised to contact call centres using the new non-emergency 101 number or by email.
Responding to the figures, Paul McKeever, chairman of the Police Federation which represents 140,000 officers, said: “The police are lowering the flag and giving the message to criminals that policing is in retreat.”
The survey reveals that in England and Wales as many as 470 stations may be closed to the public. Nine of the forces who responded to the survey admitted that at least half of their stations will shut.
In London the Metropolitan police is considering an end to public access at 104 of its 136 stations; instead, one 24-hour station will operate in each of the capital’s 32 boroughs. A final decision will be made early next year.
In Manchester, South Yorkshire and Durham at least six out of 10 stations will close their doors to the public. In Devon and Cornwall the force has already shut 36 of its 57 stations. Gloucestershire has closed 15 out of 29 public counters, replacing them with 11 “police points” in civic buildings where appointments can be made to meet officers.
Lancashire is planning to close 21 of its 38 stations, while Essex is likely to close 21 out of 46 to the public.
Many of the station counters that will remain open will reduce their operating hours either by opening only on weekdays or, in rural areas, for a few hours each week.
Richard Crompton, chief constable of Lincolnshire and head of local policing and partnerships for the Association of Chief Police Officers, said that moving officers back onto the streets would help to raise public confidence: “There is innovative use of the internet and social media, which is making officers and staff far more accessible to the public.
“The introduction of the non-emergency 101 telephone number across the country is again designed to improve police accessibility and contact with the public,” he said.
The 101 number, intended to reduce pressure on the 999 service, replaces the existing local non-emergency numbers for different police forces. It will be available across the country by January.
Nick Ross, former presenter of BBC TV’s Crimewatch, said: “These closures are going to be very unpopular … It would be surprising if this does not have an impact on crime.”