‘Use savings to put more police out on the beat’

Ballyclare PSNI Station. INNT 28-062-PSB

Ballyclare PSNI Station. INNT 28-062-PSB

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MLA Paul Girvan has said savings the police make from the closure of Ballyclare police station must be put into getting more officers out on the beat.

The PSNI has said the Ballyclare station will close to the public from September 30.

The station currently opens to the public on two evenings during the week and a recent analysis found only five people used the facility in the space of one month.

The facility will still be used by the local Neighbourhood Policing Team and the public will be able to attend the station by appointment.

South Antrim MLA Paul Girvan said the decision was “worrying”.

He added: “Ballyclare is quite a large town and to think that it will be bereft of a police station that the public can call into does bring concerns.

“The police will argue that there is no need for bricks and mortar anymore, but they need to ensure that there are more police officers on the beat and importantly they are seen to be out on the beat.

“That can be the only possible measure that would make this move more acceptable.”

In 2008 the PSNI announced a major refurbishment programme of work for the Ballynure Road facility.

The station had most of its Troubles-era fortififications dismantled as well as a new reception area and facilities for the public to use built.

The work was hailed as “long over-due” and was said to create a more “unser-friendly” experience.

It was reported that the work was expected to cost the oublic purse around £200,000.

At the time police said there were “no plans” to downgrade or close the station.

Despite those assurances less than one year later the station was earmarked for closure and its opening hours subsequently reduced.

Mr Girvan added: “They spent a brave amount of money, which wasn’t all that long ago, on doing the station up.

“I remember it well because people in the town at the time said ‘the police station is getting done up - it’ll be closing next’ and they have been proved right.

“It’s hard to understand the logic sometime and questions will have to be asked of why so much was spent, only for the station to close so soon.

“But in time, one would hope, we will get to the bottom of this.”

A police spokeswoman confirmed the enquiry office at the station will close on September 30.

She said:“Members of the public will still be able to visit Ballyclare station to meet with individual police officers by arrangement and the dedicated Ballyclare Neighbourhood Policing Team will continue to operate from the station.

“The NPT officers and their response colleagues from Newtownabbey are all equipped with Blackberry mobile devices that allow members of the public to contact them directly, at any time while on duty.

“We have a responsibility to ensure that all of our resources are used in the best and most effective way possible and that police time is concentrated where it is needed.

“This decision is about delivering the kind of policing service that best meets local needs to ensure we have the right people in the right places at the right time.”