The structure of policing in Derry is to get a major overhaul from next week, as a result of budget cuts and PSNI-wide reorganisation.
The three neighbourhood teams currently operating in Derry will be replaced by two Critical Neighbourhood Policing Teams (CNPTs)- one larger unit operating across the cityside and a second unit for the Waterside. Strabane District’s two Neighbourhood Policing Teams will also be changed to just one CNPT unit.
Some of the responsibilities for policing neighbourhoods will transfer to new Local Policing Teams (LPTs)- with five of these to operate 24-hours-a day in the Derry area and a further two in Strabane.
The changes will take effect from next Monday, September 21.
Derry & Strabane District Commander, PSNI Superintendant Mark McEwan, said that it was inevitable local people would notice a difference on the ground, and said that the amount of changes coming into the police force were due “in no small measure” to financial cuts.
Mr McEwan also said that the closure of Strand Road PSNI Station’s enquiry office at night was being looked at.
Speaking to the media at Strand Road PSNI Station on Wednesday morning, he said the LPTs would take over the role of current response teams, who deal with calls for assistance and emergency call-outs.
He added that the Local Policing Teams would be increased by 50% on the current response teams, and would take over some of the roles which previously came under the neighbourhood policing remit, with each LPT team officer having a geographical responsibility for a specific area.
If they are freed up from emergency call outs they can then focus on ‘problem solving’ and understanding the issues on their assigned patch.
He added that there would be flexibility between teams and with the ability to draw on outside resources.
In terms of serious crime such as drug operations, searches for missing people, anti-burglary campaigns there will be a District Support Team consisting of a sergeant and an expanded team of 15 officers based in Derry.
Mr McEwan said that the changes had been well received by officers on the ground.
“I have been really impressed by their attitude to this. Any questions we get have been, ‘well how do we make this work?’ I haven’t personally experienced any resistance from them, and in any change process of this scale that’s very unusual and I think that speaks to the quality of the officers we have here.”
He added that the new revamp “will hopefully allow us to create some efficiency savings, not in head count, particularly not in this district, although ultimately the head count may reduce in PSNI as we go forward”,
“However it’s about allowing us to be more agile. There are other budgetary elements we need to look at- our overtime, best use of our resources and things like that.
“We think it will work, we need to make it work, and it should be more joined up. It allows response officers to develop a better geographical understanding of their area.”