Larne Borough Council has called for an urgent meeting with the PSNI’s assistant chief constable to discuss the planned relocation of the borough’s emergency response team.
As reported in the Times, the local 999 team is to be merged with the team from Ballymena into what police called a “single dedicated response team”.
The move, which we understand is due to take place next month, is part of the PSNI’s efforts to shave its budget in the coming years.
But the decision has led to a chorus of condemnation from elected and community representatives in the borough, who fear the relocation will have a detrimental effect on policing in the area and lead to reduced response times.
At the September meeting of Larne Council, DUP representative Gregg McKeen put forward a motion that the local authority should write to assistant chief constable George Hamilton urging him to meet with elected members to discuss the issue.
Cllr McKeen told the Times: “The council is not happy about this decision by the PSNI or the way it has been handled. There was no consultation or communication on the matter before the decision was reached, and it appears that it is now a done deal.
“People are now worried that Larne police station could be the next thing that will be taken away. We need reassurances that the standard of policing in the borough won’t diminish further.”
In August, the council sent correspondence to PSNI area commander John Magill, outlining their concerns over the planned relocation.
Inspector Magill moved to allay fears that the move would impact on front-line policing in Larne.
He stated: “We know the value in the local beat officer concept and I want to assure you that neighbourhood officer numbers will remain unchanged. Additionally we will be asking them to take on more of the crime and incidents that occur in their area and their capability should be enhanced.”
However, Deputy Mayor Cllr Drew Niblock said he was “very disappointed” with chief inspector Magill’s response.
Cllr Niblock told the Times: “I am still of the opinion that the relocation to Ballymena will have a knock-on effect for neighbourhood policing in Larne. They are already stretched as it is and this would only put further pressure on them.”
Cllr Niblock added that relocating the response team would “further erode” the public’s confidence in the police.
“Crime statistics in the Larne area are very low compared to some other parts of the province, but I believe that is because a lot of people are not reporting incidents to police,” he added.
“They believe there is no point in reporting crime because they feel that police response times are not good enough, and so this relocation is only going to fuel that perception.
“I understand that at the end of the day, the PSNI is a business and like all businesses, it has to make savings. Unfortunately, it looks like the people of Larne will be bearing the brunt of these cost-cutting measures,” Cllr Niblock concluded.
A PSNI spokeswoman confirmed they had received correspondence from Larne Council asking for a meeting with the assistant chief constable, but she did not indicate whether the request would be granted.