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Merseyside Police is committed to giving its local communities the best possible service and to ensuring that we can provide a visible policing service within our communities.
As a result the force has reviewed the service provided by its General Enquiry Offices to see if they currently provide the best service possible based on community needs, customer and resource demands and the changing use of technology.
The review identified that:
• Visitors to GEOs have fallen significantly with an average of only 1.2 visitors an hour.
• Only 17% of all enquiries fielded by GEO staff actually needed the customer to attend in person.
• Our digital contact channels are becoming increasingly popular with 80 people an hour contacting the control room through social media, and fewer than 10% of them saying they would still have gone to a GEO if social media had not been an option.
• Front line officers were frequently having to provide cover at the GEOs, at short notice, to keep them open to the public due to support staff shortages, meaning they were not policing communities
By no longer using front line officers to cover gaps in GEO services the force has been able to re-invest approximately 25,000 hours of their time back into patrol. This roughly equates to the ability to respond quicker to 20,000 incidents over the course of a year. In monetary terms this represents a re-investment of over half a million pounds.
Following the review’s initial findings, the force implemented interim opening times in February this year to give us an opportunity to explore a range of longer-term options, which served the needs of the public and enabled us to be visible and accessible in local communities; whilst making the most efficient use of our resources.
In St Helens the interim changes made in February were:
St Helens GEO - open Monday to Saturday, 10am to 6pm
Newton-Le-Willows - open Monday to Friday, 10am to 6pm
Assistant Chief Constable Jon Roy, said: "A great deal of work has since taken place in partnership with the Police and Crime Commissioner, who has been expanding a programme of work to open Community Police Stations in public buildings throughout the county. While these stations are not operational replacements to our General Enquiry Office service, they do offer a regular and convenient place for the public to go and speak directly with their local policing officers about issues and concerns. At present there are 18 Community Police Stations in Merseyside with three more to open in Liverpool shortly."
A key part of the review was analysis of demand for the services provided by the General Enquiry Offices across the force area.
Analysis showed that in St Helens, the GEOs at St Helens and Newton-Le-Willows were used by the public for approximately 40.5% of their opening hours. With an average daily footfall of 25 at St Helens and 5 at Newton-Le-Willows (between 1st April -13th August 2019).
The review has now completed and based upon the findings a new set of proposed opening hours will be implemented by March 2020:
St Helens GEO - open Monday to Friday, 10am to 8pm & Saturday, 10am to 6pm
Newton-Le-Willows GEO – open Tuesday to Friday, 10am to 6pm
Although Newton-Le-Willows will now be closed on a Monday, St Helens will be open for two hours longer during the working week to cater for members of the public who work regular daytime hours. In addition, there are six Community Police Stations in St Helens. These are located at Rainford, Thatto Heath, Eccleston, Billinge, Sutton and Moss Bank with surgeries for the public advertised on the Facebook page. I will also continue to work through co-location opportunities with the local authority, or partner agencies, to maximise the joint services we can provide.
The staff in GEOs have had additional training so that when they are not engaged with enquiries from members of the public they can carry out other functions such as the completion of crime and road traffic collision reports, which in turn increases the efficiency of our overall service.
Quite often there is a misconception when a general enquiry office is closed and people think the station is no longer operational. This is not the case and operational officers will still be operating out of Kirkby, Huyton, Newton-Le-Willows, Admiral Street, Speke, Walton Lane, Marsh Lane and Wallasey.
ACC Jon Roy, added: "As part of our commitment to providing a visible and accessible policing service we have decided to give the responsibility of supervision for the GEOs to local policing teams who already have responsibility for the provision of the Community Police Stations. This will ensure that their core functions are aligned closely to the community.
"We have also increased our ability to offer a range of transactional services, including reporting crime, setting local policing priorities, and obtaining advice through the new force website.
"Meanwhile our social media desk continues to grow in popularity and we remain one of the only forces in the country to be taking contact in this way.
"This revised approach reflects the changing consumer habits and preferences of the communities we serve and offers greater choice to the people who need us."