Merseyside Police is slashing the opening hours of its General Enquiry Offices (GEO) on April 15.
The change follows an extensive review of the GEO service by the force, which found that front line police officers were frequently having to provide cover in the GEOs to keep them open to the public.
This meant that the force was having to take police officers off the streets, preventing them from responding to emergency incidents.
The review also identified that the number of people visiting GEOs across Merseyside has significantly reduced in recent years.
On average, just one customer per hour attend GEOs in the force, although some GEOs have a higher footfall than others.
To prevent the force from having to backfill the GEO service with frontline officers who should be out on the streets. a decision was made to change the GEO opening hours in February 2019, whilst the force sought to recruit additional staff to provide a more sustainable GEO service.
The additional staff have now been recruited and from Monday, April 15 the opening hours of GEOs across Merseyside will be as follows:
St Helens, Birkenhead, St Anne Street, Southport, and Huyton will be open between 10am and 6pm Monday to Saturday.
Wallasey, Marsh Lane, Admiral Street, Walton Lane, Speke, Kirkby and Newton-le-Willows will be open between 10am and 6pm Monday to Friday
The public will also have access to community police stations that have been introduced across Merseyside. These provide an additional service in local communities.
Deputy Chief Constable Serena Kennedy, said: “The GEO service is only one way in which the public can contact us, we have community police stations across Merseyside and at the start of last year we introduced a dedicated social media desk in our call centre giving the public the ability to contact us online 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to report non-emergency incidents, or to ask for advice.
"In the last 14 months the desk has dealt with an average of 2500 contacts every month.
“The review we have conducted on the GEOs has shown that the number of people visiting the offices has declined year on year and people just aren’t using them like they used to, preferring to contact us via other means.
"We clearly need to consider this as we continue to look at how we best engage with our communities in the most efficient and effective way.
“It’s really important for us to get the right offer for our local communities and that needs to balance their needs with the demand we see for services. We can then put our resources in the right places. Quite often people believe that when a general enquiry office is closed the police station is no longer operational. This is not the case.
“We will continue to review how our communities can contact us to ensure that we can provide an offer that meets their needs and ensures the most effective use of force resources.
“Any decisions we make will not be made lightly, but it must be remembered that since 2010 the force has lost £110m and more than 1600 officers and staff due to funding cuts. We have already made a lot of hard decisions, but the impact of these cuts is continuing and the decisions we are having to make are getting harder.
"But I can assure the people of Merseyside that our duty to protect the public remains our primary aim and we will continue to deliver the best possible service we physically can with the budget and the resources we have.”
Alternative ways to contact Merseyside Police include:
-Online reporting on the force website - www.merseyside.police.uk
This should be used for non-emergencies.
-Facebook via Merseyside Police Contact Centre – Either leave a comment or send a direct message via Facebook Messenger. This channel is monitored 24/7
-Twitter via: @MerPolCC – A private, direct messaging facility is available. This channel is monitored 24/7.
- Call 101 for non emergencies
Calls to 101 cost 15 pence per call from landlines and mobiles
-Typetalk on 18001 101. (Service provided by Action on Hearing Loss for people who are deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired)
-Call 999 for all emergencies, if:
• A crime is happening now
• Someone is injured
• You or someone is in danger
• The person who has committed an offence is still there or is nearby
- Community Police Stations (CPS) across Merseyside. Local policing teams advertise the dates and times widely on Facebook and Twitter and on the force website:
Location of community police station opening times:
Greenbase, Helena West, Queensland Place 1pm-2pm
& 9am-10am Monday and Thursday
Rainford Village Hall, Church Rd 1pm-2pm Friday
Eccleston Box, Burrows Lane; Billinge, Sutton Opening soon
-Yellow phones are available outside police buildings. These phones can be used to contact Merseyside Police about non-emergency issues outside of standard operating hours. In an emergency, always call 999.
The force has carried out an extensive review of the current general enquiry office provision across Merseyside and it found:
The number of people visiting GEOs across Merseyside has reduced drastically. On average just one customer per hour attend GEOs across the force.
People in Merseyside are increasingly going online to report incidents and engage with the police: 80 people an hour use social media desk and 95 per cent of online users say they would use the online service again
Less than 10 per cent of users of our social media service state they would have attended a station to report the same issue
26 per cent of users of the social media desk state they would not have reported anything to us without the social media service
There are huge disparities in demand between our GEOs. Some have higher visitor numbers than others and some have very low footfall
83 per cent of enquiries handled by GEOs didn’t need a visit to the police station by that member of the public
Police officers, normally from police response teams, have been detailed to keep the GEO open
Last year, 25,716 hours (54 per cent) of the total hours that 12 GEOs were open were staffed by response officers ‘backfilling’
During this period, officers still working in emergency response teams found it significantly harder to get to emergency