Just days after a brutal daylight murder on the streets of Carrick it has been announced that the PSNI station’s reception desk is to close to the public from April 3.
The decision came as the PSNI assured local residents of a continued ‘on street’ presence following the gangland style execution of leading loyalist Geordie Gilmore in the Woodburn estate. Mid and East Antrim District Commander Superintendent Darrin Jones said: “Local police supported by specialist colleagues will continue to maintain a presence in the area to mitigate any tension.”
Two men have been charged with the murder of Mr. Gilmore. They appeared at a court in Belfast on Saturday morning.
Ulster Unionist MLA John Stewart has written to the PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton and to the Policing Board urging them to reconsider this closure.
The enquiry office at PSNI Carrickfergus currently operates on a part-time basis as a base for the Neighbourhood Policing Team. The Local Policing Team is located in Larne Police Station, 12 miles away.
Services available at station enquiry offices include administrative activities such as producing driving documents, paying warrant fines, foreign students registration or signing bail.
Defending the decision, the PSNI says that members of the public can now access police services in a number of different ways due to an “evolving digital footprint which means that people no longer need to visit police station enquiry offices as often”.
As a result, and with “consideration to best and most cost effective use of police resources”, the number of station enquiry offices across Northern Ireland will reduce from 36 to 30 from April 3.
Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd said: “People are choosing to contact us in a different way and we want to deliver what they want, in the way they have chosen while maintaining our frontline service.”
John Stewart continued: “It is deeply regrettable that the people of Carrickfergus, Greenisland and Whitehead no longer have a police station.
“A population as big as Carrick’s needs a functioning police station and I would urge the PSNI to reconsider their decision.”
Commenting on the decision, Councillor Andrew Wilson, chairman of Mid and East Antrim Policing Community Safety Partnership, said: “It is not ideal that a town the size of Carrick would not have a police station that is open to the public, particularly given the current situation and tensions in some of the town’s estates.”
In a letter to the PSNI Chief Constable earlier this year, Mr. Wilson stated: “Be aware of the ongoing issues relating to paramilitarism in the area. “This is yet another reason to preserve the police station service at current levels, to provide a level of confidence and security to local residents.”
East Antrim DUP representatives David Hilditch MLA and Gordon Lyons MLA have also hit out at the closure.
Mr. Hilditch said: “The decision of the PSNI to close the Carrickfergus enquiry office is unfortunate and strips the town of a vital public service.
“This development coming after recent events in the town will cause concern in the local community.
“Maintaining community confidence in the PSNI is essential and this closure will dent that confidence in the town.”
Gordon Lyons added: “The news that Carrickfergus PSNI enquiry office will be closing is disappointing and will have an adverse impact on the local community.
“Keeping people safe is a priority and the removal of the services provided at the Carrickfergus PSNI enquiry office will be a concern for many.
“It’s important that we continue to fight for these vital services in towns across Northern Ireland.”
Meanwhile, Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson has contended that the loss of the facility will make little difference to policing the district.
He urged any financial saving to be used for “on the ground policing”.