After a spate of violent crimes in Stourbridge, a town councillor’s call for locally based police patrols has rekindled public disquiet over the controversial closure of the town’s police station.
Several serious incidents have shaken confidence since the town centre police station was shut in June 2017 after 130 years following deep Government funding cuts that were backed by local Conservative MP Margot James.
Amid reports of growing concern about crime in the town since the closure, councillor Steve Clark wants a ‘police box’ room to be set aside in the Crystal Leisure centre and swimming pool.
Councillor Clark’s push for the urgent return of locally based police patrols has raised fresh questions about Ms James’ decision in 2015 to wave through the station’s closure.
The police station’s disposal was forced by funding cuts of £145 million to West Midlands Police that Ms James has backed in Parliament since 2010.
She told the Stourbridge News at the time the closure was announced: “I am not going to fight it as I think it will have a very minimal impact.”
Since the former station’s closure, police have been based at Brierley Hill police station, up to 20 minutes drive away from parts of the town at peak times.
In one alleged recent incident, a visiting woman police officer had to commandeer a taxi to chase suspects, subsequently using a Taser stun device to subdue a cornered fugitive.
When the closure of the station was announced in late 2015, Ms James told the Stourbridge News: “I would rather see reductions to the bricks and mortar of the police’s assets rather than to the front-line officers.”
The spotlight on police cuts comes just seven weeks after the mothballed station was officially put on the market.
Invitations went out to developers to make offers for the landmark three-building complex on a prime site with multi-million pound profit potential. The deadline for bids was November 7 2017.
However, similar enforced disposals of police stations elsewhere in the Black Country and beyond have failed to add more than £500,000 each to police coffers though their post-sale potential value is likely to be far higher.
Councillor Clark’s plan for a police room at the Crystal leisure centre, which is currently being considered by West Midlands Police, would be a ‘base camp’ only, not accessible to the public for over-the-counter inquiries or calls for assistance.
After the latest weapon-related incident in Park Street, Margot James told the Stourbridge News that she would meet police to ‘impress the urgency of finding a new permanent base‘.
The MP accepted that ‘recent events will have impacted on some people’s view of the town’.
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