Upper Bann Ulster Unionist MLA Jo-Anne Dobson has called for the Justice Minister David Ford to intervene over what she claims is "a run-down" in policing in the Banbridge and Craigavon region.
Mrs Dobson, who recently led a debate in the Stormont Assembly on proposed changes to neighbourhood policing arrangements in the new Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon council area, said the plans were unworkable and unacceptable.
The Ulster Unionist representative said:
“These plans are a slap in the face from the PSNI hierarchy to the people of Banbridge.
“I am deeply disappointed that the Justice Minister chose not to respond to my debate as would be the convention. What are people in Banbridge supposed to think when the Minister with responsibility for the decision which will affect them so dramatically, shows no interest in the issue whatsoever?"
Following a meeting with local District Commander, PSNI superintendent David Moore, who has been tasked with implementing these changes, Mrs Dobson said:
"Considerable concerns were raised around the impact on response times, burglaries, reducing incidences of violent crime and responses to road traffic accidents, not least on the A1 dual carriageway and on our country roads.
“We also discussed how the PSNI works with the Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP) to raise awareness of the harm caused by use of illegal drugs; and the impact of rural crime, which is a very real concern locally, especially for vulnerable elderly people.
“The future of policing in Upper Bann is an extremely important issue for each and every family in this area and I pay tribute to the officers of the neighbourhood policing teams in stations across the constituency and commend them for the work that they do in building up important policing contacts and networks and keeping our community safe."
“I appeal directly to the Justice Minister David Ford to look again at how these radical proposals will impact on the future of policing for local people, including the increased response times to serious road accidents as police vehicles have to travel greater distances across our rural roads to respond to emergencies.
“David Ford must also consider the impact on communities in already isolated rural areas and the damage that will be wielded to important policing work that is already under-way.
“Many will be angered by the use of the community prioritisation index, which underpins the proposal to centre command in Banbridge and remove operational policing from the station.
"Two of the key figures used are deprivation and crime levels and, when applied to Banbridge, we simply do not score highly enough. This is ridiculous.
“At the moment I understand that the PSNI still dont even know how the new proposed system will work in practice, with the role profiles and shift patterns for officers yet to be established.
“These plans could end up increasing the burden on the public purse rather than decreasing it and at the same time reducing the policing coverage in Banbridge. This is totally unacceptable and I will continue to challenge these proposals at every opportunity.
“The way in which these proposals are being presented to local people with absolutely no consultation is disrespectful and sets a dangerous precedent when you consider that this is the most radical shake-up of local policing for decades."