Police shut 30 stations in effort to combat budget cuts

Police are closing 30 stations across the country.
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Police are closing 30 stations across the country.

Thirty police stations have closed to the public as police struggle to balance the books.

The force has quietly been reviewing its 400 "public facing" properties - which includes stations and community policing centres - as a Budget freeze continues to bite. And with resources thinly-stretched, response times to 111 calls are rising.

Since 2009, the shutters have come down in 28 stations and another two are to be closed, which means the public must go elsewhere to report crime.

This includes stations in Orewa, Auckland's Fort Street, Papatoetoe, Otara and Waitemata police managers' headquarters. Porirua community constable base has closed, as has Christchurch's Halswell Community Office. But police could not provide a full list of stations where the doors have permanently shut.

There are also reduced public opening hours in stations in Rotorua, Porirua, Upper Hutt and New Plymouth, Gisborne, Napier and Hastings.

Police say the blow is softened by putting more officers on the street. And they say 16 facilities were opened or upgraded.

Acting Deputy Commissioner Grant Nicholls said police districts are "changing the way they operate," using technology, changing opening hours and freeing up frontline officers. Any revenue from the sale, or saved by the closures, was re-invested back into police, Nicholls said.

"This 'more street than station' approach means having police officers out on the street and visible in communities, rather than sitting in buildings or in front of computers . . . Effective policing is not about bricks and mortar - it is about the police staff out on the street working in our communities to keep people safe and utilising new mobile technologies to ensure staff on the beat are better informed than ever before with the latest intelligence and information."

Figures show response times to 111 calls grew longer in the last year and fell below targets.

In 2012-13, 91 per cent of calls to the 111-communications centres were answered within 10 seconds. By 2013-14, this fell to 88 per cent - two points below a performance benchmark.

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In the same period, respectively, 83 per cent of non-emergency calls were answered within 30 seconds. It dropped to 81 per cent - but still above the 80 per cent "performance standard".

The Police Association's president Greg O'Connor says innovation in policing should be welcomed but centralisation is a flawed model. "There is some merit in the argument that just because a station was built, doesn't mean it should be there forever.

"But what we are talking about here is centralisation . . . it's circular because this happened in the 1960s and we lost touch with our communities. I think we are making the same mistake again. It is a bit too hard to think those [closures] are anything other than resource driven when the budget has been frozen since 2010."

O'Connor says stations are being moved from low-socio economic areas, because residents tend to put up less of a fight. "That's why we are a little cynical about this . . . people there often do need somewhere to go running to."

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 - The Dominion Post

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