BUDGET restrictions within Tayside Police are beginning to be felt and the effects are already filtering down to local level.
The force recently undertook a voluntary redundancy and early retirement process which has resulted in an overall reduction in staff numbers.
However, further cuts are required and the axe has fallen on local police offices. In Arbroath, the facility in Gravesend is now open to the public only between 8.30 a.m. and 4.30 p.m. following the removal of evening and weekend opening.
CCTV coverage has also been reduced, with operators not working the ‘graveyard’ shift between 3 and 9 a.m. because of staff reductions.
Divisional commander Chief Superintendent Colin McKay explained that the changes would take effect for an initial period of six months after which time they will be reviewed to assess their impact.
At that time they will either be ratified or amended as appropriate.
Councillor Peter Nield concedes that in these hard times the Chief Constable has to make savings to keep frontline services going but is concerned that the largest town in Angus has such a reduction in reception hours. More worrying he feels is the unmanned CCTV.
Councillor Nield continued: “CCTV becomes a recording for reference rather than an active tool. If we look at incidents in cities where CCTV operators have spotted crimes happening and sent police in or where suspicious characters have been tracked, this clearly cannot happen during the unmanned times in Angus.
“I would rather see police on the streets than behind a desk and if this cost cutting measure does that then I can live with it.”
Newly elected MSP for Angus South Graeme Dey commented: “As an SNP MSP I am firmly supportive of the retention of frontline officers on our streets, and indeed one of the main achievements of the last SNP government was to increase front line police numbers by more than 1,000.
“Whilst there obviously a need to cut bureaucracy in all of our public services – the Westminster budget leaves us with no option in that regard – it is also vital that frontline assistance to the pubic remains all it can be.
“As the MSP for Angus South I have already written to Superintendent Colin MacKay of Tayside Police’s Eastern Division seeking a meeting to discuss a range of issues, of which front desk cover and CCTV monitoring in Arbroath will be included.”
Councillor Alex King added: “I am seeking reassurances that these proposals to reduce the public access hours at Arbroath Police Station will have no knock-on effect on the policing of the town in general and that the Chief Constable will give Arbroath an assurance that there will be no reduction in the number of front-line police officers deployed in Arbroath.”