Reform Analysis: Police station visits

Police stations in London are visited by fewer than two members of the public an hour, according to Reform analysis of new figures.  The figures, released under the Freedom of Information Act, reveal how frequently police stations are used by the public and raise questions as to the suitability of a policing model based on bricks-and-mortar police stations. 
 
In full, the data suggests that:

  • Police stations in London are used by an average 1.9 members of the public an hour during opening times. 
  • Even the busiest police stations experience relatively low levels of public use.  In boroughs with the busiest police stations, such as Harrow, just over four visitors an hour are recorded at police station front counters per opening hour.  In boroughs with the least-visited stations, such as Wandsworth, 1.2 people on average visit a police station per hour.
  • In some boroughs, less than one third of public interaction with the police occurs in physical police stations.  In Barnet, the equivalent of 8 per cent of local population set foot in police stations in 2010.  This compares to an average 25 per cent of British people who interact with the police each year.
  • There is seems to be no relationship between a greater number of police stations and lower levels of crime or public satisfaction. Southwark, for example, currently has six police stations open for a collective 725 hours a week (the second highest in London) but volume crime rates are among the highest in London. In the same vein, Kingston and Bexley have some of the highest rates of public satisfaction but the fewest police station opening hours of any borough.

The figures suggest that interactions between the police and the public may be increasingly taking place within neighbourhoods and through new forms of communication, rather than in bricks-and-mortar police buildings.  The Metropolitan Police Service has previously reported a 20 per cent fall in crime reporting at front counters and a 32 per cent increase in internet and email reporting since 2008.
 
In January this year, the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) set out proposals to close a large number of police stations in London and install front counters in alternative locations, including supermarkets and post offices.  The estate strategy, which is currently out for consultation, aims to reduce the space occupied by the Metropolitan Police Service by at least 300,000 sq m by 2015-16, including through the closure of up to 65 station front counters, as part of wider efforts to save over £500 million worth in savings from Metropolitan Police spending by 2014-15.
 
Reform’s Director, Andrew Haldenby, said: “This evidence suggests that the Metropolitan Police is absolutely right to question the fabric of existing police stations in order to deliver services that the public want. In the new era of tight money, no public service can afford to waste a penny on facilities that are not being used”.

Table 1: Police station visits by borough. 

 

London borough

Average weekly visits

Current number of police stations

Number of police station front counter opening hours (weekly)

Average number of visits per opening hour

Public confidence (% think police doing a good or excellent job)

Number of crimes per thousand  population

Barking

602

3

352

1.71

65

103.16

Barnet

550

4

336

1.64

65

72.13

Bexley

646

3

202

3.20

70

59.28

Brent

830

4

504

1.65

62

94.79

Bromley

821

2

203

4.04

62

71.20

Camden

863

5

515

1.68

63

155.37

Croydon

990

6

446

2.22

61

88.85

Ealing

816

4

539

1.51

60

103.54

Enfield

1,038

4

408

2.54

62

75.69

Greenwich

973

5

610

1.60

61

94.85

Hackney

1,223

3

504

2.43

63

113.82

Hammersmith

754

3

441

1.71

70

132.47

Haringey

932

4

528

1.77

55

96.52

Harrow

690

2*

168

4.11

73

62.60

Havering

566

6

387

1.46

66

74.14

Hillingdon

523

4

271.5

1.93

58

86.02

Hounslow

771

4

416

1.85

65

93.90

Islington

721

2

336

2.15

59

136.46

Kensington

727

3

504

1.44

71

133.48

Kingston

466

3

237

1.97

71

69.64

Lambeth

997

3*

504

1.98

60

117.81

Lewisham

1,154

5

564

2.05

61

104.70

Merton

669

3

368.5

1.82

71

73.79

Newham

1,043

5

568

1.84

60

111.60

Redbridge

713

4

360

1.98

58

87.93

Richmond

690

3

291

2.37

71

62.83

Southwark

1,193

6

725.5

1.64

56

125.82

Sutton

600

3

276

2.17

73

65.32

Tower Hamlets

853

6

564

1.51

57

112.82

Waltham Forest

930

4

432

2.15

61

106.70

Wandsworth

692

5

565

1.22

69

80.63

Westminster

1,956

7

1,048

1.87

77

291.99

Total London

26,992

128

14,174

65

64

100.83

Note: * designates boroughs in which one or more stations is temporarily closed or no front counter is available.