Police station closures ‘are a real crime’

SHUTTING ... Harton Police Station is set to close due to cost-cutting.
SHUTTING ... Harton Police Station is set to close due to cost-cutting.

THE closure of three police stations as part of a raft of cost-cutting measures is nothing short of a crime, say shoppers on South Tyneside’s streets.

The majority of people the Gazette approached in King Street, South Shields, expressed alarm at news local police offices are to be sold-off and 400 jobs will go as Northumbria Police bids to save £104m, in response to the coalition Government’s funding cuts.

The force will lose 230 members of civilian staff, slash its number of senior officers by 200, close “expensive” stations and cut the number of area commands from six to three.

An additional £46m needs to be saved by March 2017, with £58m in savings already delivered since the start of the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review in 2010.

As a result, three satellite police stations will close in South Tyneside – at Harton, Boldon Colliery and Hebburn – although a police presence will remain in other community buildings in those areas.

Also set for the axe is the police marine unit in Jarrow.

But the Millbank station in South Shields will retain its role as the area command headquarters for South Tyneside and Sunderland.

Retired Whitburn Colliery miner George Moore, 75, from Westoe, believes a police presence in our communities is essential.

He said: “I don’t have a mobile phone and, if there is a crime, I would want to walk into a police station and report it.

“Having a standalone police station in your neighbourhood is better than an officer being located in a community centre, alongside lots of other services.

“It’s a question of peace of mind. When I was a lad I was taught by my father to respect the police.

“I’d get a slap across the lug hole if a copper came to my door.”

South Shields shopper Roy Cross, 69, agreed that the closures are “not a good sign”.

He said: “When you have a police presence within communities, it acts as a deterrent to anyone who is considering committing a crime.

“We have a tradition of physically walking into a police station and reporting a crime over the counter.

“Taking that right away has to be a negative thing.”

Retired shotblaster Bill Gavin, 65, of Thomas Bell House, South Shields, added: “We want the police close by us.

“I had quite a bit of trouble when I lived in my bungalow in Biddick Hall. It’s a comfort that officers are on hand, not miles away.”

South Tyneside College student Sahariar Jian, 16, took a slightly different slant, adding: “Every organisation is having to make cutbacks and I suppose the police are no different.

“They are just being realistic.”

Chef Ronald Davidson, 61, from West Harton, said: “Some of the buildings they are getting rid of are useless anyway.

“They are not open to the public.

“I’d be less concerned about losing buildings than losing manpower, and I believe that frontline officers are being protected from cuts.”

South Tyneside College student Sean Woodmass, 16, added: “How can you report a crime if there is nowhere to go to report it? I understand there has to be cuts, but this is very disappointing.”

Twitter: @shieldsgazpaul