PSNI top brass have given their assurances that Larne police station is not under threat of closure, the Times can reveal.
The pledge was made by Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton and other high-ranking officers during Larne Borough Council’s latest monthly meeting on Monday.
ACC Hamilton brought a delegation of officers with him to Smiley Buildings to update the local authority on the PSNI’s newly launched operational policing model for H District, dubbed Service First.
The new model has introduced a raft of reforms to how police operate, including changes to call handling and dispatch, an increase in scheduled appointments with the Neighbourhood Policing Team, and improvements to case investigation times.
But the one aspect of the new model that has proven most controversial has been the relocation of Larne’s 999 emergency response team to Ballymena.
Despite attempts by the PSNI delegation to assuage councillors’ fears over the new model – including providing statistics to show how the system has performed in the six weeks since it went live – elected representatives remained largely unconvinced that Service First would prove successful.
Alderman Jack McKee said he was not impressed by the statistics put forward by police and wanted to see “more feet on the ground”.
He added: “I am distressed at the way Larne has been treated.
“Everything seems to be being centralised out of Larne. I think it is a case of empire building as far as Ballymena is concerned.”
Cllr Drew Niblock said: “The statistics for Service First look and read very well, but I believe this is the honeymoon period.
“The people of Larne need to be convinced this is the best way to police the borough.
“In my mind you can’t remove 20 response officers and gain a better service. I have yet to be convinced that this model will work.”
But ACC Hamiliton felt Service First was the “best solution” for policing in Larne and the rest of H District.
He said the stark reality was that the PSNI was facing the dilemma of a shrinking budget and fewer officers, and that the new model was a response to those facts.
But he added: “If we find that this model isn’t working and we have got it wrong, we will review it.”
Ald Winston Fulton criticised the police for not consulting with the council before implementing Service First and said councillors had been “left out in the cold”.
“You only came here tonight because you were invited by the council. It is very disappointing,” he said.
Ald Fulton also expressed concerns that Larne police station was “ready to be axed”.
But ACC Hamilton moved to allay Ald Fulton’s fears and responded: “There is no intention to close Larne police station.”