LOSE police station front desks or lose police officers – that was the stark warning to people in Bridport from Dorset’s Police and Crime Com-missioner.
During his first public visit to the town PCC Martyn Underhill said he was ‘very alive’ to the fact that residents wanted to keep the Bridport police station’s public inquiry office open.
And he also admitted that Beaminster’s police station and adjoining police house will be sold off if a new, shared base can be found for the Safer Neighbour-hood Team.
At a community forum Mr Underhill outlined the work he had done and was hoping to do and held a question and answer session.
Afterwards, Mr Underhill addressed the potential closure of the front enquiry desk at the purpose-built station in Bridport.
He said: “The public does seem to be getting confused between the police office closures and police station closures.
“There is no connection between the two.
“There are no plans that I am aware of to sell the Bridport building but we are reviewing how to best use it.
“I do understand that in Bridport many people want to keep the enquiry desk open and I am very alive to that fact.
“My dilemma is we have to save millions of pounds in cuts and we are doing everything in our power to retain services. To do that we have to either remove the front offices or remove police officers, that’s the reality.”
Mr Underhill also explained that if the front desk was to close, the force would look at sharing premises with other emergency services as a way of cutting costs.
He said: “That is what we have done in North Dorset, and we are now exploring that idea here.
“We could maybe have somebody in the tourist information centre. Shared service with other partners has to be the way forward, and it would be much easier for the public.
“If they had one place to go to see the police, to see the fire service, to get information on the town, then why not have it one place.
Mr Underhill added: “There does seem to be a lot of sense in the Beaminster Safer Neighbourhood Team moving locations. The police house is an option, but we are also looking to see if we can share properties with other services.
“If the SNT moved, which we are looking at, the police station building and the house would be sold.”
Mr Underhill also addressed the privacy issues which may arise if people wanted to speak to the police in confidence, and addressed claims the police could become similar to a call centre.
Mr Underhill said: “Not many people go into a police station to report a crime in person, but if they did want to there would be a private interview room they could go in, or they could call to arrange an appointment with an officer at the station, or to arrange for the officer to visit them at home.
“I don’t think it will become a call centre. Officers now attend vehicle crimes because the public want to see an officer. We have also got officers patrolling the streets more. I don’t think we will have an issue. As long as I am PCC officers will still go to crimes.”
* During the forum, Mr Underhill dealt with a wide range of issues that police were dealing with.
These include the treatment of suspects who may have mental health issues, human trafficking, reducing re-offending, the licensing of wet tents and safe buses for vulnerable people.
Other topics included the Community Justice Programme, front desk enquiry closures, Neighbourhood Watches, a review of how Dorset Police uses speed cameras, a fall of eight per cent in crime figures across the county and restorative justice.
Mr Underhill was also asked about the controversial ‘badger cull’ that could be soon introduced into Dorset.
He replied: “It looks like the badger cull will be coming to Dorset. There are always two sides to every story and it is certainly divisive. We will be looking to stay in the middle of that dispute.
“The debate on whether it’s right or wrong is irrelevant because it’s a government law and nothing to do with me. We comply with the law and we don’t have a view on it but hopefully we won’t have any disorder in Dorset.”