Why half of the UK’s police stations have closed in past decade
Investigation reveals that some major cities have no dedicated stations with front counter
Around 50% of Britain’s police stations with front counters where the public can talk to officers have closed in the past decade, according to a new analysis.
Although no official figures showing the number of national closures are available, an investigation by Daily Mail suggests that at least 667 dedicated stations have been shut down since 2010.
Freedom of Information responses from 39 of the 43 police forces in England and Wales indicate that there are now fewer than 600 still open to the public.
Cities including Bath, St Albans and Ely no longer have any dedicated stations with front counters. And London’s Metropolitan Police “has lost 106 stations and now has just 36 after selling off £1bn of property”, the paper reports.
Forces including the Met have launched online crime-reporting services, with the Mayor of London’s office arguing that “people don’t use police stations the way they once did”. The city authority says that in 2016, just 8% of crimes were reported at police front counters, down from 22% in 2006.
But critics argue that the shift in behaviour has been forced by the station closures, and have “derided schemes such as ‘virtual police officers’ as ineffective for people who seek the reassurance of face-to-face contact and the privacy of a police station”, says the Mail.
The closures have been blamed in large part on widespread budgetary pressures. A 2018 Public Accounts Committee report found that “forces are selling off more of their assets to try and raise some funds for capital investment and increasingly drawing on their reserves”.
The Covid pandemic has also prompted the temporary closures of many more stations that pundits fear “will never reopen”, according to the paper.
Anger over the closures have been fuelled by a string of recent killings that have taken place close to the sites of former stations.
Last Friday, 19-year-old Ahmed Beker was knifed to death near west London's Paddington Green police station, which closed in 2018. His cousin had been killed in a stabbing on the same street in September 2019.
Jay Singh-Sohal, the Conservative candidate to be West Midlands police and crime commissioner, has warned that the station closures send a message that “justice is in retreat” and are “an invitation for criminals to move in”.
The criticism was echoed by Labour MP David Lammy, who tweeted that the Conservatives “talk tough on law and order, but their record is one of lawlessness and disorder”.