Police chiefs are being encouraged to set up stations in stores in order to improve engagement with the public.

In its report, ‘Rebooting the PC: Using innovation to drive smart policing’, the thinktank Policy Exchange urged police forces to be more imaginative in how it interacts with the public, including working with the high street more to place ‘cops in shops’.

It suggested following the ‘Australian model’, which would see a greater number of smaller stations often co-located with shops on the high street

“Rather than the British approach of having a small number of relatively large police stations, the Australian system is predicated on lots of smaller police offices,” said report author Martin Innes. “Moves to put front counter services into local shops and offices reflect the changing nature of public/police engagement.”

The report argued that the idea of having just one large police station in an area was outdated, with the number of visitors to these stations dwindling.

“Reporting a crime is one of a few things that can be done at a front counter and in London, this accounts for just 11% of all visits,” added Innes.

“And the most common reason for visiting a front counter was to report or hand in lost property, which is nearly 20% of activity at front counters. 12% of people visit front counters to seek general information or simply to ask directions. Over a third of visitors have been generated by the police or the criminal justice system, such as those responding to bail or providing documents. The dramatic decline in front counter use means that some of them see fewer than seven visitors every day.”

The report also revealed that the Post Office was in discussion with 10 forces, including the Metropolitan Police, concerning taking on high volume, administrative front office counter tasks. Earlier this year, the Metropolitan Police proposed setting up ‘crime prevention desks’ and ‘police bureaus’ in high street locations such as stores and post offices in order to compensate for the 65 police stations that were earmarked for closure.