London

Metropolitan Police look at closing station front desks

Police light
Image caption The Met says about 14% of crimes were reported at front desks

The Metropolitan Police is considering closing down some of London's 138 front counters - the first port of call in most police stations - in an attempt to save money.

It is proposing a minimum of one front counter per borough, staffed 24-hours-a-day, seven days a week.

But critics say reducing the number of front counters would make it more difficult for people to report crime.

No decisions will be made until a public consultation is completed.

The Met is reviewing the use of front counters as part of a wider analysis into how the public contact the police - whether face-to-face or using telephone and online methods.

It says there has been a reduction in the reporting of crime via front counters.

According to the Met last year approximately 14% of crimes were reported in this way, while 66% were by phone.

'Place of safety'

Commander Tony Eastaugh said: "Some of our front counters hark back to a different era.

"We now have 630 Safer Neighbourhood Teams, we have surgeries, we have different mechanisms for engagement of police at a local level."

But critics fear it is a cost-cutting exercise which will remove a valuable resource from communities.

Richard Moore, chairman of a Safer Neighbourhood Panel in Lambeth, said: "The first purpose of any police station is to be a place of safety.

"That blue lamp is recognised throughout the world and if somebody's in trouble that is where they're going to want to go.

"They do not want to find a police station is closed and it's only open part time."

But Liberal Democrat London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon said: "Evidence has shown members from black and minority ethnic communities and older people who like to go and report things in person.

"If there's only one front counter in every borough they won't be able to get there and I fear lots of crimes won't be reported."

The Met is running an online survey into the way people access the police until midnight on 30 May but a wider public consultation will continue into the summer.

No decisions about changes to the number of front counters will be taken until this is completed.

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