Police front desk closure: 'People should have a place where they can report crime in their own town' (From St Albans & Harpenden Review)
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St Albans police front desk closure announcement met with opposition from councillors
The decision to close the front desk at St Albans police station in a bid to save cash has been met with opposition, after it was announced on Friday.
St Albans councillors have fiercely criticised reduced front desk services, which means residents will have to make enquiries over the phone or at custody stations in Hatfield, Hoddesdon, Stevenage and Watford from August 12.
Leader of the council, Conservative councillor Julian Daly said: "We are disappointed but we haven’t given up hope because we are currently in discussions to have a front desk at the council offices, which is a similar service to what they provide in Rickmansworth. "
This idea has been backed by Liberal Democrat council group leader Anthony Rowlands who said the police had ignored public concern.
Councillor Rowlands said: "The negotiations with the district council for the police to use some of the vacant space at the civic offices presents a golden opportunity to retain front desk access in St Albans.
"We are also looking to the police and crime commissioner to work with parish and town councils, supermarkets and other operators with significant public access to provide new personal access and crime reporting points.
"Let's hope he responds positively to these constructive proposals."
Police and crime commissioner David Lloyd defended the "difficult" decision in order to meet financial savings.
He said: "Far more people now choose to contact the police in non-emergency situations by telephone and via the internet, than do so in person. Obviously, the 999 telephone service has been the primary means of emergency contact for many years.
"While there are suitable and effective alternatives to providing a front counter service at several police stations, it makes sense to capitalise on that and ensure that other services are safeguarded, such as child protection and Safer Neighbourhood policing."
However Labour county and district councillor Roma Mills said residents benefit from a front desk service in their home town.
She said: "I take a dim view of this decision.
"I think people should have a place where they can go to report crime and discuss concerns in their own town. Some people may not want to pick up the telephone or send an email, they may want someone to talk to.
"We have had an erosion of public services; the hospital is depleted, social services abandoned and now this."
Councillor Mills added that she welcomed plans for a front desk service in the civic offices.
A reduced service will be available from the Three Rivers District Council office at Three Rivers House, Rickmansworth and Abbots Langley station.
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