South Norwood Police Station set to close
South Norwood Police station is to be sold off, sparking fears it could impact on policing in the area.
The mayor's office agreed last week the borough's second biggest station could be sold off by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) as it seeks to save millions of pounds from its budget.
The MPS has said the building is inefficient for modern day policing and provides poor working conditions for staff.
But the Metropolitan Police Federation warned it could cause crime rates in the area to increase.
The station houses CID and uniformed officers, the safer neighbourhood team, response teams, and has a front counter to deal with public enquiries.
It had a crucial role during the riots and is also the base for Operation Withern, which was set up to investigate the disorder during August 2011.
It also became the centre of the borough’s policing operations when an explosion at Croydon Police station closed it on March 20.
But it is now almost certain to close as the MPS reviews its whole property estate to find savings which can be reinvested into operational policing.
The MPS would not comment on the timescale of the closure and would not comment on where South Norwood’s resources would be moved.
Chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, John Tulley, said getting rid of the station could cause crime rates in the area increase.
He said: "We think it is an unfortunate move. Clearly we have to engage as a police service and engage with the public.
"One of the main ways in doing that is having an identified site in the locality where people can go for help when it is needed.
"If we continue to close these stations across the board then we stop engaging and as a general direction we think that is a bad idea.
"We have evidence of localities that have had police stations closed in the past have seen a significant rise in crime figures."
Councillor Wayne Lawlor, Labour member for South Norwood, called the closure a shame and criticised the lack of consultation involved in making the decision.
He said: "We have one of the higher crime rates in Croydon. To close the station, which would mean losing the front desk, is dangerous and it sends the wrong message out to people.
"This unfortunately could lead to relations becoming worse between the public and the police as a result of this decision. It is not good news and it does not bode well for the future.
Gavin Barwell, MP for Croydon Central, said losing the station is not as bad as losing frontline police officers.
The Conservative MP said: "I completely understand the concerns of residents about losing the front counter there. But there has to be reductions in spending.
"If the choice is between closing a police station or losing officers, I would much rather lose the station. What is important is that the levels of visible policing on our streets aren’t reduced."
He said some resources had already been relocated to a multi-million pound new custody suite on Windmill Road, designed to house up to 41 prisoners and include Croydon CID, which opened earlier on in the year.
But the new facility does not have a front desk, and members of the public cannot report crimes there.
Superintendent Rob Atkin, Deputy Borough Commander for Croydon, said he understood the concerns of the community.
He said: "We have to put it into context. We have just got a new police building which we have spent millions of pounds on and ultimately the Met do have to save money next year.
"A lot of the officers that were at South Norwood are now at the new site at Windmill Road. So in some ways it is surplus to requirements, as we don’t need all the buildings.
"I understand the community issues about public access and having a front counter but there is a review going on at the moment about that.
"I know at least one front counter will be open 24 hours in the borough but the next review will tell us what buildings need a counter and which ones don’t."
Simon Hoar, Cabinet member for Community Safety and Public Protection, said it was down to the Police what buildings they keep.
He said: "In terms of police stations the Met have been doing an estates review for a while. What they do with the police station is down to them really.
"The police are still in Croydon, they aren’t pulling out or anything."
Steve O’Connell, London Assembly member for Croydon and Sutton said: “This situation is primarily a police matter. There is a fair debate to be had and I understand the concerns of people in South Norwood.
“I am a strong believer in having a visible police presence on the streets as opposed to a building. I will argue eyeball to eyeball with anybody about that.
“In these difficult times I want to make sure that South Norwood residents are served by good numbers in their SNTs, have good police response times and are served well by the police, that doesn’t mean a building.
“It is a very complicated picture, I think a firm decision still needs to be made on the building but we have to make sure we have boots on streets.”