Concerns over Hitchin and Letchworth police front counter closures

Letchworth police station (pictured) and Hitchin will both close their front desks

Letchworth police station (pictured) and Hitchin will both close their front desks - Credit: Daniel WilsonDaniel Wilson

FRONT counter services at police stations will be closed, prompting concerns over where people will go to report crime.

Both Hitchin and Letchworth GC police stations will cease to operate the service from August 12.

They are among eight stations across the county affected, with Herts Constabulary only keeping front desks open at custody stations, such as Stevenage.

There are claims the closure could impact on crime being reported.

Deborah Segalini, Hitchin and Harpenden Constituency Labour Party chairman, said: “I’m worried that if a person is feeling a bit unsure about calling the police about something, they might pop into a police station on the spur of the moment, but might not travel to another office.

“I also worry that people might seek refuge at a station and find none.

“I know Hitchin is not the hottest crime spot in Herts, but it doesn’t mean we don’t need to keep looking after one another.”

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The closures were also criticised on Twitter.

Lib Dem district councillor Lisa Courts said: “Disappointed is not the word I would use – angry is. Think it’s a bad decision.”

Lizzy Bee labelled it “silly”, while Hitchin resident Adam McDowall tweeted: “I genuinely don’t understand how a town is supposed to function without easy access to something as important as the police.

“A police station is somewhere citizens should have 24 hour access to.”

Currently, both Hitchin and Letchworth GC front desks are open two days a week – Letchworth on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and Hitchin on Fridays and Saturdays.

Following their closure, an emergency phone at the entrance of the stations will be kept for public use through the day and night. They will link directly to the force communications room.

Police and Crime Commissioner David Lloyd said: “This is just one of the difficult decisions that the constabulary has had to make in order to meet the financial savings required whilst protecting vital, core services, particularly frontline policing delivery.

“While there are suitable and effective alternatives to providing a front counter service at several police stations, it makes sense to capitalise on that and ensure that other services are safeguarded, such as child protection and Safer Neighbourhood policing.”

Herts Police has stressed the closures will not result in any cuts to officers and PCSOs patrolling the town.

And it has claimed that it has plans in place to ensure accessibility to those officers is not restricted.

Superintendent Matthew Nicholls said: “The greater use of the phone and technology such as the internet has meant that we are already seeing a change in the way that we interact with the public.

“We have also seen a significant increase in the number of people using our online services. Footfall has continued to reduce and of those who do use the front counter provision only a small number actually require face to face contact.”