Great Britain

HALF of British police stations have closed in 10 years with some being turned into cannabis farms

HALF of British police stations have closed in the past 10 years.

At least 667 with public counters have shut down since 2010 - with some being turned into cannabis farms.

Many closed their doors for good due to severe cost-cutting, but others have temporarily closed during the pandemic.

And critics fear that "justice is in retreat", the Daily Mail reports.

Several serious incidents have happened outside closed police stations, especially during lockdown.

On Friday, Ahmed Beker, 19, was stabbed to death near Paddington Green police station in West London, which closed in 2018.

In December, a cyclist was fatally stabbed on a common overlooked by a former station in Birmingham.

And homeless mother-of-three Kelly Stewart, 42, was battered to death opposite a police station that is closed to the public in London in March last year.

Jay Singh-Sohal, the Conservative candidate to be West Midlands police and crime commissioner, said: "You could argue that if these police stations had been open and fully operating then attacks like these might not have taken place."

Cannabis farms have been found in two abandoned police stations, in Oldham, Greater Manchester, and in north-east London.

The first floor and loft at Failsworth station in Oldham was used to grow more than 1,000 plants worth an estimated £1.5million.

Photos show huge numbers of plants on the site, where police believe the 'gardeners' had been living.

The station opened in 1892 but closed in 2013 and sold for £190,000 three years later.

But the cannabis factory wasn't discovered until 2019.

Cannabis plants were found at another former station in Winchmore Hill, north-east London.

The Grade II listed building sold for £950,000 in 2015 to be converted into six flats.

But police arrested two men on suspicion of growing cannabis on the premises, which set the developers back.

Another ex-police station in the capital was occupied by anarchists, and it took 60 officers to evict them.

Paddington Green police station was occupied by members of the Green Anti-Capitalist Front, who smeared "all cops are bastards" on the walls.

Although there are no official figures showing the number of national closures, the latest estimate from the House of Commons shows around 600 stations in England and Wales were shut between 2010 and 2018.

The Home Office has said there are "a range of reasons" behind the closures, including a rise in the use of online crime reporting instead of members of the public approaching police at a station counter.

Police funding has been boosted by £636 million this year compared with the 2020 budget, totalling £15.8 billion, which is being used to help recruit an extra 20,000 officers, according to the department.

A Home Office spokesperson said: "The Government is giving the police the resources they need to cut crime and keep communities safe.

"Decisions about frontline policing and how officers and resources are best deployed are for Chief Constables and Police and Crime Commissioners.

"Police stations close for a range of reasons, including increases in online crime reporting and investment in new digital technologies such as tools to enable officers to work flexibly and perform services they would have previously had to return to a police station for."

Freedom of Information responses from 39 police forces, obtained by The Daily Mail, revealed that there are now fewer than 600 stations open to the public across England and Wales.

More than one has closed each week since 2010.

Some cities, including Bath, St Albans and Ely are left without dedicated stations with front counters.

And Britain's largest force, London's Metropolitan Police, has just 36 stations left after losing 106 and selling off £1billion of property.

Nottinghamshire Police replaced its dedicated station in Eastwood for a webcam in 2014, which locals can use to speak to an officer eight miles away.

And Hertfordshire is down to just three fully operational police stations, from 10 in 2010, despite having a population of 1.2 million.

The number of police stations in Derbyshire has dropped by 84 per cent, from 25 to just four.

Thirty three have closed in the West Midlands leaving 11 open, while Cleveland Constabulary are left with just two after closing 16.

Paul Kohler, a law professor who campaigns for local police stations after officers saved his life during a gang robbery in south London, described the figures as "shocking".

He said: "These figures are absolutely shocking. If we want community policing, then we absolutely need police stations in the community, somewhere safe victims of crime can go. 

"We can't reclaim these stations once they're sold – once they are gone, that's it."

Mr Singh-Sohal added: "What sort of message does this send to criminals? It sends the message that justice is in retreat. 

"Closing down an area's police station is an invitation for criminals to move in.

"I don't think it's possible to argue the case that an area remains just as safe after it has lost its police station."

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