The closure of Port Erin police station will deliver a huge blow to the community and could lead to an increase in crime said the village’s commissioners’ chairman Ged Power and the authority will be asking for ‘further dialogue’ about the level of policing in the area.
Last week Chief Constable Gary Roberts announced swingeing cuts to the force that included closure of Port Erin and Lord Street police stations in Douglas.
The south will be policed from Castletown.
Mr Power, formerly a police officer, said within hours of the news of the breaking he had had calls from members of the public concerned about the impact of its closure.
‘It’s quite obvious we will have less police patrols, with their day to day duties they will have no patrols in Port Erin.
‘Everyone will know there is no presence at that police station, without that level of police cover, where do members of the public go to report lost property, to produce documents or to give statements to assist the police? And this was a £1m building that was purpose built for police use. It has cells for custody and rooms for interviews.’
He said the police station at Castletown had not got suitable cells, meaning custody could only be provided at police headquarters in Douglas.
He wondered if the knowledge there was no local police presence would incite criminal behaviour.
He said: ‘One of the questions is, we are very grateful we live in a low-crime area but is that because we have a police station here?’
Local community policing must be retained he said. ‘I hate the thought of officers responding when they do not know where they are going and do not know the characters involved, which you need to know when dealing with a small community. Because everybody wants the community police officer bobby on the beat, someone they know, trust and recognise and knows the local area, there is not one person in the Isle of Man does not want that, that community contact is vital and it has to be retained.’
He added: ‘No doubt the (crime) statistics have been seen and studied for Gary Roberts to make the decision to close Port Erin (station) above the closure of Peel, Ramsey and Castletown.’
He said the commissioners would discuss retaining a police presence in the village, perhaps based at the commissioners’ office. ‘We have always had a police station here, before the current building we had a residential police station for as long as anyone can remember.
‘I’m sure Port Erin Commissioners are open to suggestions … but at the moment it looks as though we have been forgotten about. We will be looking for further dialogue with the police about community contact being retained and patrols carried out when we need the police - on Friday and Saturday evenings when there are problems with people who are drunk and disorderly - this is what I’m seeing in Port Erin. What I have seen is we have got people problem under age drinking out on the streets.’
Commenting on the news on iomtoday.co.im, Rob Callister, a commissioner in Onchan, where the police station was axed in 2012, said: ‘Having attended the briefing given by the Isle of Man Chief Constable, Gary Roberts, I have nothing but genuine admiration for the job he is doing.
‘At last night’s briefing for local authorities, Mr Roberts announced a major programme of modernisation of the island’s police force, in an era of reduced budgets and challenging financial targets.
‘Mr Roberts also confirmed that neighbourhood policing is still going to be at the heart of their activities and that 95 per cent of all officers will continue to be on the ground and in the community.
‘The presentation given by Mr Roberts gave details of genuine unavoidable cuts and savings, simply because of reduced budgets.
‘There was no smoke and mirrors and certainly no transfer onto the general public by way of increased costs.’
Cuts being made to public services - and the introduction of some extra charges to the public - have been triggered by the changes to the VAT agreement, which sees the Manx government’s income drop by around a third.