Shake Up For Local Delivery in Police Service Starts On Monday 28 September
Down News interviewed Area Commander Superintendent Simon Walls earlier this week about the pending changes to the delivery of local policing in Northern Ireland which will be rolled out from Monday 28 September across South Down and part of Armagh.
There have been very significant changes across the PSNI in Northern Ireland and the restructuring right down to local level will provide a safe and sound service for future policing.
Commander Walls explained: “There are three main drivers for this change taking place. The first is an economic reality. We are faced with a massive £38 deficit in our budget and have to make appropriate changes. Cuts are a threat to our operations but we feel that we have a good system in place ready to roll out now.
“Secondly, since the eleven new councils were set up in this April, our local policing boundaries now match the council boundaries… this has clear administrative advantages such as linking in with community planning and other key partners.
“Thirdly, we are committed to reducing crime in our community and delivering community policing… we are ready to roll this out.
“What clearly wasn’t changing was is our commitment to keep people safe 24/7 365 days a year.”
Commander Walls explained that there had already be significant training taking place with police officers to facilitate the changes of Local Policing Team (LPT’s) across the district to be set up to run beside the Neighbourhood Policing Teams (NPT’s) in Newry, Kilkeel and Newcastle. In the past there were NPT’s based in the Rowallene, Downpatrick and Newcastle areas.
LPT’s will have a dual roll he explained. They will be based only in stations in Newry, Crossmaglen, Newtonhamilton and Downpatrick across the policing district. They will act as response teams when needed and also play a community engagement role. “From being in an LPT working with serious crime issues such as drugs, RTA’s, violent and domestic abuse etc, an officer could find themselves tasked to a different car the following day to working in a school or youth club in a completely different setting. It will involve a wider set of skills for our officers and any training that is needed will be delivered.”
This new flexibility is made possible due to satellite technology which can show the location of each police vehicle in the district. It will likely be a question of tasking the nearest or most appropriate police car to the scene where required. Commander Walls indicated that this system does not undermine the ability of the police to respond to calls from the public. There will be no change to the police numbers – 101 for non-emergency calls and 999 for emergency calls.
“The Neighbourhood policing teams in Newry, Kilkeel and Newcastle will deal with issues such as anti-social behaviour, hate crimes, drugs etc. Detectives will be based in Downpatrick and Ardmore police station in Newry, and they too will be linked into the armed response units and senior crime unit as part of the overall integrated approach of the new policing model.
‘Basically there are no real changes to the number of officers we are deploying on the ground. We are consolidating what we have.
“Regarding the figure of 20% of crimes caused being related to alcohol, this spans a very wide area from domestic abuse, road safety to disorderly behaviour etc and it is a major factor in our work especially at weekends. But we will be policing as normal in areas where the night-time economy is quite lively. And agreed, this is an issue often at the weekend.
“There will no doubt be a few teething problems, but we fully expect this new model to work well and be a success,” added Commander Walls.