MPs slate night closure of police 'sanctuaries'

Closing police stations overnight is an erosion of police responsibility to the community, East Coast Labour MPs say.

From Monday, Napier, Hastings and Gisborne police stations will be closed from 9pm to 7am, with the public expected to use speaker phones instead.

The move would allow more police to get out on the street, Eastern district commander Superintendent Sandra Venables said, and staff would still operate from inside the stations.

The MP for Ikaroa-Rawhiti, Meka Whaitiri, said police stations had been a "sanctuary" for generations and the move would begin to erode the trust communities have in the police.

Napier MP Stuart Nash acknowledged police were under pressure to reduce costs but said the public's expectations of a safe community had to be put before dollars.

Venables said it was no longer viable to keep the police stations open at all hours because few people called in after 9pm. "I would rather deploy my staff more usefully out in the community where they can prevent and respond to crime, thereby making our communities safer," she said.

Speaker phones outside all three stations were linked to the police central communications centre, and an operator in Wellington would dispatch local staff if needed.

In an emergency, people were more likely to ring 111 from their location than go to the police station.

"Mobility has provided us with the means to get our staff out and about into the community, rather than being stuck behind desks in a station all night," she said.

"I am sure the community would rather see more police on the street than have them back at the station filling out forms at the front counter."

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Venables said the move in her district followed a national trend. Tauranga, Rotorua, Porirua, Upper Hutt and New Plymouth had all reduced their opening hours at night.

Police were also looking at closing the cell block in Napier in favour of one central cell block in Hastings.

The announcements came as Venables confirmed 9.5 non-sworn staff positions were being disestablished in Napier, Hastings and Waipukurau and replaced by 5.5 new positions.

Some of the mostly administrative jobs would change from full-time to part- time, and staff who lost their jobs could apply for the new roles being created in different work groups.

Four Hawke's Bay positions would be lost.

The number of uniformed staff would not be affected.

 - The Dominion Post

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