verabairdA new collaboration initiative between Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) and Northumbria Police has been launched as Neighbourhood Police Team officers moved in to share Sunderland Central Community Fire Station from October.

Councillor Tom Wright, Chair of Tyne and Wear Fire Authority, along with Chief Fire Officer Tom Capeling welcomed Northumbria Police Chief Constable Steve Ashman and Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird (pictured) to the station to mark closer working between the two services.

Five community fire stations in total will house Neighbourhood Police Teams (NPTs) under the scheme, with police officers sharing offices within the TWFRS facilities.

Over the coming months, police officers will also move in to community fire stations at Birtley in Gateshead, Farringdon in Sunderland and Hebburn in South Tyneside. A drop-in centre was set up at Chopwell Fire Station in Gateshead for the local NPT earlier this month.

Chief Fire Officer Tom Capeling said: “This initiative is about a lot more than sharing buildings. Working in this way will lead to better sharing of intelligence and joint responses to tackle anti-social behaviour and fire setting. We anticipate that working more closely will lead to reductions in incidents and result in safer local communities.”

The sharing agreements followed extensive consultation between both services and securing planning permission from the relevant local authorities to enable some alterations to be made to TWFRS buildings.

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Funding for the initiative has come from the Government’s Fire and Rescue Authority Transformation Funding Scheme. Plans for the moves have been underway for many months with the necessary building works being carried out at the separate locations.

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird added: "We're very pleased these plans are progressing well and this move demonstrates an effective working relationship with the fire service.

"It makes a great deal of sense for us to share premises as we both benefit from reduced overheads. I will continue to do all I can to ensure we continue to deliver value for money and all savings made by Northumbria Police are reinvested back in to policing in Northumbria.”

The move to Sunderland Central Community Fire Station in Railway Row provides an office base for neighbourhood officers to use and work from. As it does not have public access, residents will continue to use the public counter service at Gillbridge Avenue Police Station in the city centre. This facility will relocate to a new front office in Waterloo Place, which will open later this year.

Over the coming months the following re-locations will take place:
• Sunderland West NPT will be based in the Farringdon Community Fire Station and will retain a Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm front office
• The Hebburn NPT in South Tyneside will be based at the Community Fire station but the Front Office will be in the town centre as part of the new Hebburn Central in Glen Street, following recent public consultation
• The Birtley NPT will be based at Birtley Community Fire station. This is a new base to enable the local NPT to be located closer to the community. The current drop-in centre at the Birtley Community Centre will continue as now.