Police put 'safe cell' on streets

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POLICE ARE to pilot a remote- controlled security "cell" on the high street for frightened members of the public to hide from attackers late at night.

The "safe haven" room will have an automatic door that is controlled by officers watching on surveillance cameras at a station several miles away.

Women who think they are being pursued by a rapist or people being chased by violent drunks are among those expected to use the 24-hour security unit.

Sussex Police are to open the room in Hastings at the beginning of next year and plan to provide similar facilities in other towns and cities in the county. If the move proves popular it is expected to be copied by other forces.

Up to about a dozen people at a time are expected to be able to seek shelter. Anyone reaching the unit, which will be situated in the centre of town, will be able to contact the police control room via an intercom and speak to an officer. If the officer believes the plea for help is genuine the door will be automatically opened and locked behind them. Officers will then be sent to assist.

The initiative is in response to a survey that found the public was worried about the increasing number of police stations unmanned at night.

The secure unit will be operating from 9pm to 8am. During the day the unit will be used as a new-style community police office, where people will be able to get information and help from officers as well as an automatic "hole in the wall" style information system.

Greater Manchester Police announced plans earlier this month to close several stations in Salford and replace them with automatic information units linked to central stations.