Temporary Croydon police commander promises to look at having base in borough's north
TEMPORARY borough commander Richard Wood says he is "keen to explore the option" of having a police station or base in the north of Croydon.
Chief Superintendent Wood arrived from Greenwich this week to step in for police chief David Musker, who is on a senior leadership course.
He will lead police in Croydon until April, primarily to oversee sweeping changes which include the potential closure of all but one of the borough's six stations.
While Mr Wood said the Met needed to "get rid of old, not-fit-for-purpose and underused buildings", he agreed the plans could leave Croydon short in an area with high rates of crime.
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"I would be keen to explore options to see if we could have a base in Croydon North because I'm aware it has a different dynamic to the rest of the borough," he said.
"It has to be cost-effective. If there's an option like co-locating, or maybe looking at different premises then I would be keen to do that. Nothing is a signed deal at the moment."
In January, the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime (Mopac) announced its intention to close South Norwood, Norbury, Kenley, Addington and Purley stations as part of wider plans aimed at meeting a £500 million cut in police funding by 2014/15.
Met Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe has since suggested Croydon might keep "two or three" of its police stations.
All but the main base in Park Lane is earmarked for closure and while Sir Bernard said the borough would not retain all six, he believes a "sensible" compromise could be found.
The Met is understood to be considering the new custody suite in Windmill Road in West Croydon as a potential site for a part-time front counter, as well as contact points in post offices or supermarkets.
Conservative politicians have argued the choice is between buildings or staff, with Croydon to be allocated 117 extra officers by 2015, returning numbers back to where they were two years ago.
However, members of the public hoping this might open up a career in the police are likely to be disappointed. Mr Wood revealed that the vast majority of the additional officers would be recruited from among existing police community support officers (PCSOs) and volunteer special constables.
He said: "At the moment we have to make difficult financial decisions. We have to save money so we are not in a position to recruit people from outside."
Chief Superintendent Musker, who was off work due to ill-health for several weeks in November, has been away from Croydon on annual leave since Christmas, leaving Superintendent Rob Atkin in charge.
He is now on a "senior police strategic command course" and is due to return on April 15.
His temporary replacement, who worked in Haringey, Islington, Lewisham and Southwark before becoming borough commander in Greenwich, insists he is not in Croydon "for the long haul".
"My understanding is that Dave will come back and he will stay here for the foreseeable future," said Mr Wood.
"For the next two months my job is to stabilise what's going on and help introduce the changes.
"My arrival is absolutely no reflection on Rob, who has done a brilliant job here.
"It will enable me to concentrate on wider matters while everyone else can focus on policing."
An eight-week consultation process into the proposed changes is under way.
A public meeting is to be held at Croydon Conference Centre, in Surrey Street, on February 12.