Fears of abandonment by the police have been expressed after it was announced that Clogher Valley Police Station will be closing its doors to the public for good.
District Commander for Mid Ulster Superintendent Mike Baird made the unexpected announcement, saying it was due to budget pressures.
The closure means that there will no longer be a reporting station in the Clogher Valley area, forcing members of the public to travel 20 miles to Dungannon.
Ten years ago, there were four police stations in the Clogher Valley. Following a shake-up of the police estate to address budget pressures, Fivemiletown and Ballygawley police stations were shut down completely and put on the market.
Local politicians have expressed shock at the move, complaining that it was made without apparent public consultation.
DUP Councillor Frances Burton, who is the current Chairperson of the Mid Ulster District Policing Partnership, revealed that she had not been informed of the move.
She said she was disgusted by the closure, claiming that it left a vulnerable border community feeling ‘abandoned’.
“People are plagued by anti-social behaviour and theft in this area, and are very vulnerable given their proximity to the border”, she said. “When they closed Fivemiletown police station, we were told that we would see more police patrols out and about, but in my estimation, this has not happened.”
MP Tom Elliot also voiced his anger at the closure. Superintendent Baird stated: “The decision was driven by a need to reduce budget spend and footfall analysis.” However, the police chief added that the station will still operate as a hub for many operational support functions, including the dog section which services a large catchment area, and as a base for the Neighbourhood Policing Team.