The announcement by Julia Mulligan today will mean the majority of stations across the county will operate with reduced opening hours from May, with 11 only now taking visitors between 9am and 12.30pm on weekdays.
It is hoped the changes will save £360,000 in the next financial year and nearly £400,000 a year from then on, with the funds being used to pay for extra police officers and police community support officers.
It has not been revealed how many officers these savings will help fund, but earlier this year plans to recruit 57 new officers and 17 PCSOs were announced after the force avoided swingeing cuts in the Government spending review.
Though the force has not had to make savings like those in neighbouring West Yorkshire, it currently has fewer employees than 2010, when it had 1,486 officers and 198 PCSOs.
From May, stations at York, Scarborough and Harrogate will change from opening 8am to midnight, seven days a week, to between 8am and 10pm. Selby, Skipton, Malton and Richmond will now close at 4.30pm on Fridays rather than at 5pm, and be open from 9am to 5pm Monday to Thursday.
North Yorkshire Police’s stations at Ripon, Knaresborough, Whitby, Thirsk, Catterick, Pickering, Filey, Tadcaster, Eastfield, Stokesley and Bedale will all open between 9am and 12.30pm Monday to Friday.
Staff at the stations have also now been told that they must answer the door if someone knocks outside official opening hours and there is an employee in the building.
Mrs Mulligan said: “I am sure there will be some people who object to the changes being made to police station opening hours and I can understand their views.
“However, we must remember it’s bobbies not buildings that catch criminals and the significant savings we are making here will help us increase the number of police officers and PCSOs in local communities.
“Front counters of police stations will now be open slightly less, but still available each day for the public and no stations are closing. I have also introduced a new policy of ‘When we’re in, we’re open’.
“This is in response to people saying they cannot understand why the police won’t come to the door, if someone knocks outside of official opening times.
“All in all, these savings make a significant contribution to the investment we are making in police officer and PCSO numbers without affecting the public to a great extent.”
Chief constable Dave Jones said: “The amended opening hours reflect a detailed analysis of current demand for this type of service whilst also allowing us to continue to invest money where the community has said we should - that is, providing more Police Officers and PCSOs.”
According to police analysis, the average number of visits to police stations per day ranges from just one at small stations to 64 at larger stations.
Only one in 20 crimes are reported at a police station, representing eight per cent of total visits, while 21 per cent of visits are general customer enquiries.
Mike Stubbs of North Yorkshire’s Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, said: “Despite the Chancellor’s assertion in November that there would be no further cuts to police budgets, this is another example where we are only just seeing the consequences of cuts which had already been made.’
“The ‘When we are in, we’re open’ policy sounds both attractive and reassuring, but the danger is that it will result in police officers being committed in police stations dealing with enquiries that their police staff colleagues were perfectly capable of dealing with, and therefore unable to respond to calls.”