Police urged to open new stations in shopping centres


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The Independent Online

Local “police offices” should be opened in busy shopping centres to encourage more people to report crime and antisocial behaviour, a report argues today.

It calls for the replacement of outdated and intimidating police stations with units in large stores, post offices and other areas with high numbers of passers-by.

Policy Exchange, a centre-right think-tank, argues the move will save money and increase levels of contact between officers and the public. Warning police chiefs of the danger  of putting “buildings before bobbies”, it says the service needs to become more imaginative in its dealings  with people.

Policy Exchange argues that very few people ever walk in to a police station to report a crime, with some stations receiving as few as seven visitors a day. In London, the number of crimes reported at police stations has nearly halved in the last five years and almost 90 per cent of offences are now reported by other methods.

The report, Rebooting the PC, proposes the installation of a modern version of the “Tardis” police boxes – containing audio-visual screens allowing the public to speak directly to police officers. They could be used to report crime, raise concerns about antisocial behaviour and provide witness statements.

The report’s author, Professor Martin Innes, said: “There has been uproar whenever chief constables or police and crime commissioners suggest they might want to close some police stations. However, most crime is reported by phone, many stations are getting old and increasingly expensive to maintain and are often located in the wrong places, away from key population centres.”