Police methods are set to dramatically change on Monday with Lurgan becoming a hub for ‘critical’ policing teams and a new operational style coming into force.
The majority of previous neighbourhood policing teams in Lurgan, Brownlow and Portadown will disappear and be replaced by four Neighbourhood Policing Teams (NPT).
The lead policing will be carried out by newly formed Local Policing Teams (LPT) - one based in Lurgan and the other in Armagh.
The Lurgan LPT will have a more urban focus in this area and Portadown while the Armagh LPT will cover a vast rural area stretching to south Armagh.
Speaking to the ‘MAIL’ Superintendent David Moore, PSNI District Commander for Armagh City Banbridge and Craigavon District, said: “These officers will be supported by four Neighbourhood Policing Teams (NPTs), based in Armagh, Mahon Road and Lurgan Police Stations. Both teams will be mobile and deployed to areas to deal with critical issues. Jointly their focus will remain on protecting people, preventing crime and detecting offenders.”
Superintendent Moore said Lurgan and Portadown have ‘critical’ neighbourhood policing teams because ‘those areas have particular problems’.
He explained that gone will be the separate response and neighbourhood style policing units and that the two will merge, with officers expected to respond to situations and continue with follow-up care.
“They are critical neighbourhood policing teams. It is not difficult to work out, those areas have particular problems.
“Within those areas, those critical neighbourhood teams will be primarily focussing on where we see areas of the greatest need.
“That doesn’t take away my ability to move them to other functions but they are quite small teams. They are replacing a much larger designated neighbourhood policing team.”
The district commander said that, previously, neighbourhood and response had not always worked well together. “Neighbourhood did their thing and response did their thing but they weren’t coming together in terms of what we wanted to achieve. The neighbourhood function was also very expensive. It absorbed a lot of officers and the reality is there were holes in it.
“So we have tried to take an advantage out of this. The Reorganisation of Public Administration (RPA) and financial restructuring was what we had to do to keep our heads above water. It is ‘can we find a way to solve some of these intractable problems that we have had and bring the policing functions better together’?
“We haven’t walked away from neighbourhood. Neighbourhood policing and policing with the community is actually going to be reinforced by this,” he said, adding that he wants to be judged on that this time next year.
“What we are creating instead of response are the local policing teams (LPT). Instead of response and neighbourhood there will be local policing teams which I will be adding the bulk of my resources to and then critical neighbourhood teams. I have kept four neighbourhood teams back in those places of greatest need. But LPT is going to be the new main business. The two areas for LPT are in Lurgan and Armagh.”
He explained that the police shift patterns will change and it is designed to put more people on the ground, and available to the community when they are most needed.
“Those police officers - for the first time - will be given a bit of geography to be responsible for and this is one of the ways they will transition from just turning up, solving the problem and clearing off - because the problems that they go out to deal with are going to stay their problem. They are still going to be going back into that same area the next time they are on duty and are going to have a much bigger vested interest.”
However, he admitted that the changes have not been without problems and some officers have been unhappy.
“This is a way to get a bit more out of them and they have taken the mud from me on this. I have changed the place where they go to work. I have changed the function that they are doing in many cases and we have asked a lot of them and we are asking for a mindset change.”
He said the neighbourhood police are at an advantage as they know how to deal with things like a local politician over an anti-social behaviour issue.”
With the change in shift patterns and locations as well as the change to some roles, the Superintendent believes they can do it.
The area has been split into the seven District Electoral Areas (DEA), which the council areas are used to, and created one sub DEA in Banbridge town.