Campaigner says a decision has already been made on future

‘Cop shops to close as crime increases’

By Scott Jamison

NEW PLANS for the future of local police stations will leave South Belfast without adequate policing cover, it’s been claimed.

Information campaigner John Collins was speaking to the South Belfast News this week after the launch of a public consultation process on the future  “viability” of Donegall Pass and Ballynafeigh stations.

A police spokesperson said senior officers will attend next Wednesday’s (February 29) district policing partnership meeting at Donegall Pass Community Centre to hear local comments on the review recommendations.

But Mr Collins said he’s convinced the decision had already been taken by senior management of the PSNI to close the buildings, ensuring South Belfast would be left with only one full-time police station. And that’s a recipe for disaster, added Mr Collins.

“I think it has already been decided – they are going and it doesn’t matter how many debates we have over it. They are earmarked to go and that is not going to change because the police want to cut their budget.

“It will mean the only local stations are Musgrave Street, which is full-time and Lisburn Road, which has part-time hours. So in effect, the only station the police will be operating out of is Musgrave Street, which will be used to cover the vast majority of South and East Belfast.”

Mr Collins said the potential reduction in the number of stations at a time of increased criminality was “ridiculous”.

“Recently we have had a spate of carjackings, quite a number of which have taken place in South Belfast. It makes sense to base your resources nearby so you can have a prompt response to any incident, but if everything is going to be based in Musgrave Street that is not going to be the case.

“There could be a scenario where there is a suspect device placed outside Musgrave Street Station. That would mean South Belfast would grind to a halt because they wouldn’t be able to operate from there.

“It beggars belief, especially at a time of heightened dissident activity. But it seems the most important thing is saving money and nothing is going to change that.”

South Belfast Area Commander Chief Inspector Gabriel Moran said the PSNI was continuing to “look very closely” at all local stations.

“We have to ensure we are using all of our resources, including buildings, in the most effective and efficient way to ensure we provide the best possible policing service to the local community.

“Recent restructuring across the police service has delivered an additional 50 police officers to front-line duties in South and East Belfast. A decision to recommend the closure of a station is not taken lightly. I can understand that some may take comfort in having a police station nearby. However, modern policing is about people, not buildings.”

 

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