The PSNI has decided to reduce public opening hours at all station enquiry offices across Northern Ireland to a maximum of 12 hours each day as part of its ongoing efforts to make significant budget cuts.
And local District Commanders will be tasked with deciding just when stations such as Armagh and Newry, and others across the region, will open, and will be based on demand at peak times.
Details relating to individual stations will emerge over the coming weeks.
With a requirement to save £38.4million the end of March next year – and plans of around 10% cuts next year – PSNI says it is currently exploring ways to live within a reduced budget – and changes to enquiry office opening hours, which will be implemented over coming weeks and months, are part of this process.
The only exceptions will be Musgrave Station in Belfast and Derry/Londonderry’s Strand Road Station enquiry offices, which will remain open to the public 24 hours each day.
Assistant Chief Constable for District Policing, Stephen Martin, explained: “It is important the public is reassured that any reduction in enquiry office opening hours does not mean a reduction in our service. Policing remains a 24 hour, seven days a week operation and we will continue to be there at people’s time of need. Police activities within stations will continue as normal and we can be contacted 24 hours a day on either 101 or for emergencies on 999.”
Research conducted by PSNI showed police stations receive a very small number of callers trying to attend to routine matters, such as presenting for bail and handing in driving documents, between the hours of 10pm and 8am. In fact, the number of people visiting the station enquiry offices after 10pm accounts for less than 2% of visits to the enquiry office over a whole week.
ACC Martin added: “The public are increasingly engaging with the police in different ways – from online reporting of non-emergency and hate crime incidents, to interacting with local police on one of our 32 Facebook pages and 32 Twitter feeds, to contacting local Neighbourhood Policing Teams directly as their contact details are available from the PSNI website. As a result we have found fewer people are visiting or using police stations.
“We have taken efforts to minimise any inconvenience caused to communities through reducing the station enquiry office opening hours by taking into consideration peak times they are used.
“Each of the District Commanders will be determining the opening hours at every one of our stations based on demand. They will be communicating the new public opening times to their communities through the local media and via our social media channels and website over coming weeks.
“Policing is changing but our policing purpose remains the same – keeping people safe is still our main priority and we will continue to do this by preventing harm, protecting people and detecting offenders.”
It is anticipated that decreasing enquiry office opening hours will save up to £250,000 per year and up to £75,000 by the end of this financial year.
The PSNI has been reviewing the provision of its custody facilities throughout Northern Ireland as some are under-utilised and a number require modernisation and investment to ensure they continue to meet health and safety requirements. A custody strategy has been developed which will see changes to the number of custody suites over the next few years.
ACC Martin said: “Safe detention is our priority, however, the financial pressures facing the PSNI have meant we have speeded up the process of custody suite rationalisation.
“We have already made the decision to close a number of suites – Grosvenor Road custody suite closed last week and staff have been re-deployed to the Musgrave facility. The Lisburn suite will close permanently on 18 December 2014 and the facility in Ballymena will temporarily close on 24 December 2014 with permanent closure earmarked for the end of 2015. More closures will follow as will some new development.
“This will enable the police service to provide a smaller number of more enhanced custody suites and will help deliver savings in connection with estate works. These three closures announced today will save approximately £1 million in estate works that would have been required. There will be further significant savings through reduced need for Civilian Detention Officers, the redeployment of PSNI Custody officers and also reduced police overtime.”
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