Police stations in Essex could close to the public

Twenty one police stations in Essex could be closed to the public under proposals being considered.

Opening hours would change at a further 25 stations as part of the proposals, which would save an estimated £2.5m.

An Essex Police survey found 63% of people had not visited a police station in the past year, and 94% said they would rather report a crime by phone.

People in the county will also be able to contact the police by dialling a new national non-emergency number: 101.

Among the police stations that would close to the public under the proposals are Rochford, Wivenhoe and Brightlingsea.

Nine police stations - Basildon, Grays, Harlow, Southend, Rayleigh, Colchester, Chelmsford, Braintree and Clacton - would remain open to the public between 08:00 and midnight, seven days a week.

Staff consultation

A further 16 stations, including Halstead, Witham and Billericay, would be open from 12:00 to 18:00 Monday to Saturday.

The force is consulting with staff over the proposals through the Unison trade union.

It is looking to make savings of about £41m by 2014.

Essex Chief Constable Jim Barker-McCardle said the proposals were to close front counters at quieter police stations, but that the police would remain accessible through neighbourhood action panels, surgeries run by local officers and mobile police stations in busy locations.

"I fully accept there is a perfectly logical sense of reassurance that comes from knowing the local police office or station is open for a few hours a day," he said.

"It's really important that people understand that just because a front counter might close to the public, it doesn't automatically mean the police building is going to be sold and it certainly doesn't mean that local policing has gone away."

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