Labour calls for new police stations in the West Midlands
Labour has vowed to push for more police stations across the West Midlands as part of a new drive to revamp neighbourhood policing.
Shadow policing minister Louise Haigh said the closures of more than 50 stations and bases across the region had made people feel “very distant” to the police, while the disappearance of neighbourhood teams had contributed to a rise in the crime rate.
Ms Haigh spoke to the Express & Star during a visit to Halesowen this week, where she discussed the impact of the closure of the town’s police station's front desk with residents.
It came as Home Secretary Priti Patel defended her party’s record on policing, insisting that the next Tory government will bring in “a new way of working” across forces that will help clamp down on crime.
Crime has shot up by 14 per cent over the last year in the West Midlands, while the region’s force has lost more than 2,000 officers and £178million from its budget since 2010.
Addressing the issue of closed stations, Ms Haigh, a former special constable, said: “It really does make people feel very distant to the police.
“I know the value of community policing and it is that which we have lost so significantly over the last nine years, particularly in communities like the Black Country, where they have lost police bases, as well as neighbourhood policing teams.
“They have lost all that contact, so the police are less able to do the preventative work that they need to do.”
Ms Haigh said she wanted to see West Midlands Police given the final say over how it spent “additional capital money” that would be provided under a Labour government, but said new stations were needed to help reconnect the force with communities.
“There is a dangerous school of thought that police should put everything into technology and digital investigations because so much crime is committed either entirely through cyber crime or with a digital footprint,” she said.
“I don’t think anything can replace the police being in the community and developing those relationships with communities.
“It is partly reassurance, but also, if you are a victim of crime and you have to travel 40 or 50 to make a statement, then the chances of you doing that are so negligible that it limits the chances of a prosecution.
“Quite frankly, criminals know that. Prosecutions are down to seven per cent of all crimes committed. There has never been a better time to be a criminal than under this Tory government.
“Certainly, in certain communities in the Black Country there needs to be new police stations and there needs to be an investment in neighbourhood policing.”
Halesowen Police Station was initially earmarked for closure in 2015 as part of West Midlands Police's six-year estates programme. It is currently operating with no front desk to the public and is expected to close for good in 2021.
Ms Haigh has also called for a reform to the police funding formula, so forces in “high demand” areas such as the West Midlands get their “fair share of the pot”.
Meanwhile Ms Patel has backed the next Conservative government to change policing “for the good” with a series of measures including 20,000 new officers and new programmes to reduce the number of frontline officers leaving the profession.
Speaking to the E&S during a visit to Dudley this week, the Home Secretary said she was “proud” to be associated with the new recruitment campaign, which will see 366 new officers taken on by West Midlands Police next year.
“The take up has been phenomenal, but on top of that, we have got to do much more to maintain existing officers and to stop officers from leaving," she said.
"You get attrition all the time, but I want to give them more career development opportunities in policing to grow their skills and enhance their collective experiences and knowledge so they can share that with new recruits and bring a new way of working across policing.
“Policing has to change to be far more responsive to the changing nature of criminality that we see."
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