‘Slap in the face for people of Banbridge’

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Upper Bann Ulster Unionist MLA Jo-Anne Dobson has called for the Justice Minister David Ford to intervene over what she claims is “a run-down” in policing in the Banbridge and Craigavon region.

Mrs Dobson, who recently led a debate in the Stormont Assembly on the proposed changes said the plans were unworkable and unacceptable.

“These plans are a slap in the face from the PSNI hierarchy to the people of Banbridge.

“I am deeply disappointed that the Justice Minister chose not to respond to my debate as would be convention. Where is the justice for the people of Banbridge who will be affected by this decision when the Minister with responsibility shows no interest in the issue what-so-ever?” the MLA asked.

She recalled a recent lengthy meeting with PSNI superintendent David Moore, who has been tasked with implementing these changes.

“Considerable concerns were raised around the impact on response times, burglaries, reducing incidences of violent crime and responses to road traffic accidents, not least on the A1 dual carriageway and on our country roads.

“We also discussed how the PSNI works with the policing and community safety partnership (PCSP).

The MLA appealed directly to the Justice Minister David Ford to look again at how these radical proposals will impact on the future of policing, “David Ford must also consider the impact on communities in already isolated rural areas and the damage that will be wielded to important policing work that is already under-way.

“Many will be angered by the use of the community prioritisation index, which underpins the proposal to centre command in Banbridge and remove operational policing from the station.

“Two of the key figures used are deprivation and crime levels and, when applied to Banbridge, we simply do not score highly enough. This is ridiculous.

“As it stands, I understand that the PSNI still does even not know how the new proposed system will work in practice with the role profiles and shift patterns for officers yet to be established.

“It is also frightening to think that, as Lurgan requires armoured cars, we could have the farce of officers responding from Lurgan and travelling in armoured vehicles and possibly arriving in Banbridge to get into their standard response vehicles.

“Their plans could end up increasing costs to the public purse rather than decrease them and at the same time reduce the policing coverage in Banbridge.”