Camden's chief of police brands front counters a drain on resources
PUBLISHED: 11:00 17 January 2013
Camden's chief of police has defended the closure of three police stations across the borough, claiming they are a drain on resources.
The blue haze of the police lamp which has glowed reassuringly in Hampstead for 100 years could stutter and die should the proposed closure of the Victorian police station be approved.
The closure of the front counter at the century-old police station has been on the cards since 2001 when residents first rallied to protect the valuable station from the gaze of the Met’s estates team.
But the battle, it seems, has finally been lost after the service was whittled down last year and last week was stamped “proposed for closure” by City Hall.
West Hampstead station, in Fortune Green Road and Albany Street station, in Regent’s Park, were also named among the 65 “underused and outdated” front counters destined for the scrapheap, as police chiefs scour budgets for £500million of savings.
Under draft plans released by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, Kentish Town station, in Holmes Road, will keep its front counter, but the hours will be scaled back to 40 a week. Holborn station, in Lambs Conduit Street, will be the only police station in Camden open to the public 24-hours a day.
Chief Supt Richard Tucker, the borough commander, defended the closures, claiming that very few people still reported crime over the counter.
“It’s frustrating to see officers wasting their time,” he said. “It’s not a new problem, I sat in police stations when I first joined 27 years ago and no one came in and I was thinking, ‘What am I doing here?’ So it comes down to, do people want the police station or the police on the streets?”
The safer neighbourhood community policing teams are also set to be slashed, with each ward losing one constable. Despite the cuts to the service, Camden’s most senior police officer has pledged to bolster local policing, doubling the number of officers in the borough dealing with “low-level neighbourhood” crime to 120.
The front counters will be replaced with alternative contact points, with Hampstead Community Centre, the Royal Free Hospital and the 02 Centre, Finchley Road, among the possible “pop-up” police counters.
But Mr Tucker admitted there could be teething problems with finding workable alternatives. “Confidentiality is obviously an issue and I want people to feel comfortable in the environment where they can engage with the police,” he said. “If someone needs to talk confidentially, we need to find a place where they can speak privately. If British Gas can arrange appointments we should be able to do it too.”
Hampstead Community Centre, a few hundred yards up the hill from the station, has not been approached by police chiefs.
Centre director Richard Weaver said: “We are always open to suggestions, absolutely. We do have a bit of space where we could host that. We already have surgeries for councillors. But nothing would actually replace the police station as a connection to the community.”
A spokesman for the Royal Free Hospital said bosses had met with police and held discussions, but no decision had yet been made.
It has been largely accepted among campaigners that Hampstead station, valued at £30million, will one day be sold off. Campaigners have turned their attentions to securing a small part of the Grade II-listed building for a neighbourhood police centre in a redeveloped building.
The Heath and Hampstead Society wrote to police chiefs in November to try to secure a package of demands for any developer interested in the 19,000sq ft site. They are yet to receive a reply.
A consultation meeting on the closures will take place at the Camden Centre, Judd Street, on Tuesday, at 8pm.