‘HANDS off Dromore Police Station!’ That was the opening shot this week in the fight to save the threatened base from its proposed closure.
The battle will get underway in earnest next month should the Policing Board proceed to formally consult the public on plans - as laid out in the PSNI’S Estate Strategy - to close Dromore Police Station and more than 30 others.
The strategy was recently placed before the Board, but it is seeking further information on a number of issues ahead of discussing the plans at its December meeting.
Meanwhile, in an early attempt to mobilise the public in defence of the Dromore station, the local DUP has launched a petition in protest at the closure plans.
The Leader is backing calls for locals to signal their opposition to closure proposals and is pledged in weeks to come to weigh in behind any efforts to establish a broader public and cross-party political campaign of the kind that only relatively recently saved Skeagh House from the axe.
Following Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson’s insistence last week that for community policing to succeed it must be based in the community, a number of party colleagues have likewise spoken out against moves to rob Dromore of its already limited opening police station.
Councillor Paul Rankin said it was important that the community made its voice heard and he urged people to call at Lagan Valley MLA Brenda Hale’s Church Street office to add their names to the petition.
“There will be a consultation process before any decisions regarding closures are made,” he said, “and there are many issues which need addressed prior to the commencement of this consultation.
“What is driving these proposals to review police stations is Finance; £135 million needs to be saved from the policing budget over the next four years, but to close some of the police stations listed doesn’t make much economic sense at all.
“Money has been spent in recent years to upgrade some of these stations, so to now close them is madness.
“The DUP members on the Policing Board and the DUP as a party are committed to opposing these closures and the integrity of the list will be scrutinized. The battle to save Dromore Police Station has just begun!”
An “appalled” Councillor Hazel Gamble condemned any proposal to close Dromore Police Station.
“The police station has a long and proud history in the centre of Dromore town,” she said, “and is also a vital service that is used by the wider rural community.
“The fear of crime is on the increase and proposals by the PSNI to rip this service from the heart of the Dromore community must be condemned.
“I would encourage everyone in the Dromore area to sign our petition and send a clear message to the PSNI – ‘hands off Dromore Police Station!’”
And Lagan Valley MLA Edwin Poots said it was disappointing, at a time when Dromore’s elected representatives were working hard to revitalise the town, that the PSNI felt it no longer needed the services of the police station.
“I would call on the Chief Constable to listen to the concerns of elected members and the wider Dromore Community and stop these proposals,” he said.
“Community policing is at the centre of policing plans throughout Northern Ireland and, with this is in mind, it is hard to comprehend how this proposal will improve community confidence in the PSNI to deliver effective community policing for the Dromore area.”