Residents and councillors are campaigning to reopen local police stations in York, but a top MP is not convinced that will help get bobbies back on the beat. Helen Gabriel reports.

AS A campaign to reopen local police stations in York gathers pace ahead of local elections, so has the debate around the merits of such a move.

On the one hand, some councillors believe it would save a huge amount of man hours with officers currently clocking on and off at York Police Station in Fulford Road before travelling across the city to begin work.

Holgate ward councillor Gil Nimmo said man hours were being wasted with officers having to travel across the city.

He said: "We have a neighbourhood policing team consisting of a sergeant, two PCs and eight Police Community Support Officers, who all clock on at Fulford Road.

"But it's costing them 11 hours a day simply by clocking on and off at Fulford. That's one and a half full-time police officers.

"The last thing we want is police officers having to man a desk at a police station. But police officers don't man the front desk at Fulford Road - that's done by police staff. So it could be done here by civilian staff or even by local volunteers."

Coun Andrew Waller, deputy leader of City of York Council, said: "What people are concerned about is having locally-based police they can get hold of and police not having to clock on in another part of the city before getting to them.

"They want their local neighbourhood policing team to be in their area from the moment they start work.

"That would give them the sense of security they are after."

But MP Nick Clegg, Lib Dem Home Affairs spokesman, believes that if they're trapped inside the local police station - where they are probably doing paperwork - then they are spending less time patrolling the streets.

Mr Clegg, who visited Acomb last week, said reopening the police station would not necessarily lead to more police on the streets.

He said: "While the campaign to keep local police stations open, or to reopen them, is commendable, the focus now has to be on ways we can make police accessible to local people as soon as possible.

"The problem is not necessarily solved by opening a police station because there is the danger that police spend too much time in them because the paper work they have to do is astronomical.

"The emphasis is on having police officers mobile and out in the communities. I think that makes a huge difference and you have to cut paperwork in order to make sure police are as visible as possible.

"We need to find different, innovative ways of making policing as visible as possible, because that is the best way to reassure people that they are being looked after."

So what is the solution?

Mr Clegg said neighbourhood policing teams of officers and PCSOs based in an area were one way of providing a police presence without the need for a local police station, and praised City of York for introducing "police desks" to public places.

Coun Waller, pictured left, said one of the ways the police and council were trying to solve the problem was by working together to open police desks in public buildings, like libraries, so local residents have permanent access to officers.

They have already been hailed a success after police ran drop-in surgeries at Acomb Library, in Front Street, on Saturday mornings in February, and they are currently taking place at the Tang Hall Library, in Fifth Avenue, until the end of May.

Police are also using the mobile police station throughout the city to give people a chance to meet their local officers and tell them their concerns about crime in their area.

It will be in Front Street, Acomb, on Saturday morning.

Residents rush to sign up

ACOMB residents launched a campaign to have the local police station reopened after a spate of crime in the area last year.

The building, which was once a fully-functioning police station with a front counter, has been used as a training centre and "drop-in" base for officers on foot patrol since 2003.

Residents presented their petition - with more than 100 signatures - to ward councillors, who then called on police for it to be opened for a trial period in December.

Then, last month, York's Liberal Democrats launched a campaign calling for more local police stations.

Petition forms have been delivered to 60,000 homes and at least 2,500 people have already signed them.