The PSNI have defended the operating hours of Banbridge Police Station in response to calls for it to re-open full time.
Superintendent David Moore said: “I was delighted to meet last week with David Simpson MP, Carla Lockhart MLA and Johnathan Buckley MLA to discuss a range of issues, which primarily included community safety in Banbridge.
“The police service in Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon District is privileged to have a close working relationship with many political and community representatives from right across the political spectrum, and we find them to be hard-working and enthusiastic advocates for those they represent, and demanding in terms of the delivery and accountability of public services.
“We discussed some recent high-profile incidents in Banbridge, and their impact in raising fear of crime in the area. I was able to provide them with an update on the investigations, reassure them that a particular and definite line of enquiry was being pursued in each and provide our assessment that in these cases, the perpetrators are not considered to present a threat to other residents of Banbridge. Whilst we have recovered a significant amount of evidence in the cases already, including witness evidence, forensics, CCTV and digital evidence, it remains possible that there are people with knowledge of these incidents or those responsible for them, and they need to do the right thing, and get in touch with us, either digitally via private messaging on our social media accounts, by email, telephone, or anonymously via Crimestoppers.
“The people who live work and play in Banbridge are safer today than at any time in recent years. Between 2015/16 and 2016/17 the number of criminal offences recorded in the town fell again, from 1,208 to 1,133. Fifteen years ago that number stood at 2,182. Burglary, a crime which I readily acknowledge creates a particularly appalling aftermath for its victims fell over this period too, from 195 to 154, there were 330 in 2001/02. Burglaries of homes were also reduced, from 151 to 97, there were 225 a year fifteen years ago. Violent crimes have reduced, down to 265 from 292 in the past two years, damage to property is still reducing, to 315 from 387 in two years, and reduced from 720 in the past ten years. Last year in Banbridge 100 fewer people knew the trauma of becoming a victim of crime, and whilst I acknowledge that is scant comfort for those who were, this is part of an overall crime reduction of over one third in the last fifteen years.
“I must acknowledge that despite this, some people don’t feel that much safer. I acknowledge too that for some, the re-structuring two years ago following the Review of Public Administration plays a part in that. There are those who say that Banbridge PSNI station is no longer operational.
“That is not true. We invested in a brand-new custody suite just last year, open 24 hours a day, and providing a custody centre which is available to over half the province. Our Co-ordination and Tasking Centre is there too, another 24-hour facility which ensures that police resources are where they should be at all times. What we don’t have there any more are changing rooms for Local Policing Team officers.
“There was a time when that would really have mattered, but it is not so now. We still have dedicated patrols for geographic areas, including Banbridge, which actually saw an increase in patrol coverage after RPA, and which is sustained to this day. In the modern policing age we are able to continue to provide an effective service with reduced resources because we are able to do things differently. Locate is a digital resource tracking tool that lets us track in live-time every single police resource available to us and map it against demand, again in real time. Not that long ago police resources were largely fixed, adjusted perhaps just three times a day.
“Now though, the adjustments are perpetual, providing the best possible level of coverage and responsiveness 24-hours a day. So it doesn’t really matter what station your cops use to get changed into uniform, because that’s really all they do there, we don’t sit in a crew room waiting for a call, we’re already out there, looking for trouble, and using the best available technology and analysis to put ourselves in troubles way.
“The reduction in the opening hours at Banbridge station’s Enquiry office tells a similar tale. You have been using these offices less and less recently, as both the community and the police service become more comfortable with new ways of transacting business. Most of the people who call at the Enquiry Office now are there because we make them come there, to present driving documents, to answer bail… and I for one think it is unnecessary to have that as a 24 hour service, and I think it is right to use those resources in critical areas of service delivery.
“However, public services need to listen to the communities they serve, they need to be accountable to them, and they need to work in collaboration with them. Therefore, following recent developments, we have implemented an increase in the provision of our high-visibility patrol coverage in Banbridge, and we are finalising ways in which we can improve community engagement in the town, by using the same officers on a more regular basis and providing better accessibility to those officers.
“The dedication of the PSNI to the people of Banbridge has never been in doubt, nor has that dedication ever been more effective at keeping Banbridge safe than it is now. In the last ten years in this District 713 police officers have been victims of a criminal act in the execution of their duty, and 242 of them have been injured doing so.
“One other statistic that has gone up recently is the number of drugs traffickers we have arrested, not users, not dealers, but traffickers. We put 17 of them behind bars last year, up from ten the year before, and fifteen years ago, it was only one. That is one performance measure I intend to keep increasing.”