THE public-facing desk at Bicester Police Station is being permanently closed as part of a force-wide cut to front counter services.

The move, which comes after a consultation by Thames Valley Police, will also see help desks close at Kidlington South HQ and Witney police stations.

Thames Valley Police says the closures aim to adapt to the different ways people now want to make contact with officers, such as via telephone or online.

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Conservative Cherwell District and Oxfordshire County Councillor for Bicester South Dan Sames says he very rarely used the front desk in Bicester.

He said: "It’s always worrying when there is a change in service, however, we need to ask when we last used the service being removed? Personally in the 24 years I’ve lived in Bicester I think I’ve had one visit to the front desk.

"Most of my interaction with the police has been in person, on the phone or via e-mail. For the elderly and vulnerable. using either the emergency or non emergency numbers provide greater accessibility than physically going to the police station. In terms of visibility, I think there will be little difference in practice."

But there are fears that sections of the community, such as the elderly or people who do not have internet access, have been forgotten.

Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) candidate John Howson said he was ‘disappointed’ that the consultation was held.

He said: “This was badly thought-through and didn’t look at the needs of the whole community, particularly some of the most vulnerable old people or people who don’t have enough money to have internet connections.

“We know the police don’t have enough resources as they would like, it’s quite understandable, and times move on, but you have to take everybody with you.

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“There doesn’t seem to be any thought given about how those people can interact with the police other than by dialling 101 or 999. If there is a need for people to interact with the police then there ought to be a consideration as to how everybody can do so.”

Front counter services usually allow people to report crime, give information about a crime, produce documents required by a police officer, report for bail, leave messages for officers and staff and reclaim seized vehicles.

People used to be able to hand in and reclaim lost property, but this service was recently cut.

Thames Valley Police says there will continue to be ‘good geographic coverage’ of front counters across the Thames Valley.

But Liberal Democrat Cherwell District Councillor for Kidlington Katherine Tyson said the closure of physical services is leading to ‘weakening community ties’ between police and residents.

She said: “The closure of the front desk and the removal of the lost and found services are weakening community ties. Keeping a physical desk within reach of the community is vital, and it’s my belief that Government needs to prioritise in-person interaction instead of moving even policing into the virtual realm.”

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The force says yellow phones are provided outside front counters, including those which will close, to enable a person to contact police directly and neighbourhood officers also regularly hold Have Your Say sessions in the community to interact with local residents.

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