Twenty seven front counters across the West Midlands are set to close over the next 12 months in response to reduced demand for this service, saving £3 million while protecting frontline policing.

Ten front office counters will remain open, nine from 8am to 10pm and one for 24 hours a day.*

The change follows analysis which showed there was little demand from the public during the evening and overnight.

Neighbourhood officers and other teams will continue to provide the same level of service and the force plans to introduce a range of new ways of getting in touch − after the public told us they would prefer to use more modern methods to communicate with us.

For the last 12 months an independent research company has reviewed front office use, accessibility and alternative methods of contact.

Over 7,000 people were interviewed and footfall across 41 front offices monitored against the running costs in staffing front offices. Another 320 people shared their views via an online survey.  The results of this research are available to download.

The review found that the public rarely visit front counters, with some having as few as one visitor per day. When asked their preferred method of contacting the police, front offices did not feature in the top three choices − the majority preferred more modern ways of contacting the police.

The closures will take part in a phased approach over the next 12 months. Full details around the changes can be found at www.west-midlands.police.uk

Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson, said: “The force’s 41 front desks reflect an era where if you wanted to contact the police you had a choice between a landline or visiting a police station in person. That world has changed, and the police must catch up too.

“Ninety five per cent of people have mobile phones now, and can contact the police from anywhere. Research shows that very few people are visiting front desks and prefer to phone the police or use the internet rather than go to a police station.

“The current service doesn’t meet people’s preferences and is becoming increasingly expensive as fewer and fewer people use it. We need to deploy staff to call centres where possible to free up resources that keep police officers where people want them: on the street, preventing crime and catching criminals.”

Assistant Chief Constable Carl Foulkes said: “The decision to close front offices has not been taken lightly and followed a year-long review speaking to our communities to gain a detailed understanding of the service we provide and thoroughly analysing footfall.

“The simple fact is front offices are hugely underused and cost the taxpayer millions each year to keep open. Nothing will change to the local delivery of policing – local neighbourhood teams will continue to patrol and be very much a part of their local community.

“Like all other forces, we have to continue to reduce spending and ensure taxpayers’ money is spent on the services which matter to them most. We need to ensure we offer a service that is relevant to people in their daily lives.”

He said every effort would be made to redeploy staff who may be affected by the closures.

A range of methods for contacting the police exist such as calling 101, dedicated email addresses and Twitter/Facebook accounts for neighbourhood teams, community meetings and drop in surgeries.

*Another four front offices staffed by volunteers will remain open as Contact Points offering the community an opportunity to engage locally with neighbourhood officers.

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