MINEHEAD’S police station could be moved to a smaller building and bosses have refused to rule out closing the town’s custody suite as the force prepares to open its facility at Bridgwater’s Express Park.
Police chiefs say that no decisions have been made and there are no firm plans in place, but that they are looking at cost-effective options to meet demand and need.
Avon and Somerset Police chief constable Nick Gargan joined Sue Mountstevens, the Police and Crime commissioner, and the Police commander for Somerset, Nikki Watson, in Minehead on Tuesday.
The trio held a public forum at The Beach Hotel, informing the public of their roles and some of their plans and ambitions for policing in Somerset.
Residents expressed their concerns that crimes could rise in the area if there is no custody suite and officers have to spend more time transporting prisoners.
Mr Gargan said that by 2017/18, resourcing the force will be reduced by 27% compared to 2010/11.
He explained: “We’re planning now to minimise the impact but there will be an impact and we need to try and use our resources effectively.”
One resident asked if police custody would close in Minehead when Express Park opened.
Mr Gargan said: “Extra transportation has been built into custody plans to maximise officer time on the streets and at peak times we’ll make sure those links are there.
“Don’t be fooled into thinking that the Minehead custody suite is a hive of people; that’s not an insult to the officers.
“People in Minehead Station rattle around, we need to get the balance right, more people and smaller buildings.”
Ms Mountstevens went on to say: “We need to be clear that, due to savings, we can’t afford to keep large buildings; it’s important we have officers on the street.
“We believe Minehead Station is too big and we will be looking at other properties.
“I’m sure none of you would keep a building open that is not being used.”
The public heard how the force is dealing with emerging crimes and how money, performance, organisational development and culture were the four areas for police focus.
“The progress is immense, there are now fewer than 100,000 offences each year and we’re detecting a third of those, we will do our best to continue that.
“An open police force is a good police force. I tell my officers to behave with integrity, work hard and treat people fairly and with respect,” Mr Gargan said.
Chief Supt Watson also explained how there had been a 30% reduction rate in Somerset West compared to five years ago and how reports of domestic violence and sexual assault had gone up thanks to working alongside other agencies.
One message they were keen to get across was working alongside the public to give them the support they needed.
She said: “We do not police alone, we are 100% reliant on communities and partners to achieve the results we want to make our areas safer.”