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Bridport police chief urges residents to help fight police cuts
BRIDPORT'S police chief has urged local people to make their voices heard over plans to close police station front offices.
Up to 17 public inquiry offices could begin to be closed in Dorset as early as next year as police chiefs continue to make savings.
Bridport police station's front desk facility could be under threat as the station is small and does not have custody facilities.
Insp Mike Darby, Bridport section commander, spoke out this week over the “vital role” the front offices play in policing local communities.
“I do understand the pressures that cuts in the policing budget are putting on Dorset Police resources and the pressures that are being brought to bear,” he said.
“However I feel that a station office in a community, especially one like ours, plays a vital role in allowing us a direct opportunity to meet the public over day to day matters and when people want to report things to the police.
“In my 25 years as a police officer all the stations I have worked in have had a station office.
“Local police officers want to keep the front desks as much as the public do and we realise their worth.
“I sincerely hope this consultation will meet the needs of the residents of Bridport and will not have a too serious an impact on the Bridport inquiry office.
“I would urge people, if they have a significant view on this, to contact the committee and put forward their views.”
The office is currently open Tuesdays to Saturdays from 9am to 5pm and Insp Darby stressed that even if the front office is closed, the police station is fully staffed and functioning.
Meanwhile former Beaminster bobby Clive Chamberlain, now Dorset Police Federation chairman, has urged people to oppose the closures.
He warned the move was a further step away from community policing - and that things would get worse because of government cuts.
Mr Chamberlain said: “It's another opportunity lost for the public to directly interact with local police and is a direct result of cuts imposed by the government.
“It is a sad day when you are unable to walk into your local police station, because most will be closed unless you are in a major town and even then they may have limited opening hours. I think it is a bad step.”
Reducing staff hours at front desks and closing some counters altogether in 2011, such as the one in Lyme Regis, saved the force just under £1million, said Chief Constable Debbie Simpson.
Dorset Police and the Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill have proposed the shake-up under a review of 'counter service provision'.
They have urged the public to have their say on the plans although individual stations have not yet been identified.
The proposal aims to save £500,000 but further savings of £8million will be needed to cope with budget cuts, Chief Constable Debbie Simpson said.
Further decisions about which stations will be affected will not be made until the public consultation period ends in December.
A survey to measure demand of front office counters showed that some rural stations are visited so rarely it costs £100 per visit, compared to around £20 at the busier stations in Bournemouth.
People can email firstname.lastname@example.org or write to the PCC office at force headquarters in Winfrith.
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