Menai Police Station, which has operated for 16 years in a former KFC shop and never met community expectations, has been closed permanently.
The lease will not be renewed on the shopfront in Menai Marketplace, where the doors were shut a year ago following storm damage.
Superintendent Julian Griffiths, who heads Sutherland Shire Police Area Command, said there would be no change to police operations in the Menai area.
“As many would be aware, this shopfront facility has not been occupied by us for 12 months due to storm damage,” he said.
“Prior to that, we have been meeting the needs of the Menai community and surrounding areas for the last eight years with a mobile policing response replacing the previous station officer.
“This arrangement will continue with a strong focus on pro activity.
“I want to reassure the community there will be no change to police operations or current ways to access your local police.
“We can respond to calls for assistance today, just as we did last month and last year.”
Superintendent Griffiths said the recent amalgamation of Miranda and Sutherland commands, had seen local operational police numbers increase as a result of “a flattening of the local management structure”.
Menai Police Station originally co-existed with the Police Dog Unit on Old Illawarra Road before new premises were found in Menai Marketplace in 2002.
The move followed community and political agitation for a stronger police presence in the area, particularly to deal with anti-social behaviour around the town centre.
The police station replaced fast food outlet KFC, which relocated to Menai Central to get drive-through facilities.
Extensive renovations were carried out before police moved in.
The then MP for Menai Alison Megarrity said it was “a fantastic result” and “a greater police presence around Menai – especially at night – is the cornerstone of a safer community for us all”.
Brett Thomas, the Liberal candidate for Menai at the time, said that while the more prominent location was welcome, the police station would be no bigger, and possibly smaller.
”`The main issue is how many police will be assigned to Menai, and how many patrol cars will be based there,” he said.
The staffing of the station remained a political issue with then Opposition Leader Peter Debnam promising before the 2007 state election to build a new facility at a cost of $25 million and staff it with 25 officers.
Liberal candidate Steve Simpson said the station would be built on its former site in Old Illawarra Road, which is also used by the Dog Unit.
“It is only with increased police numbers and ditching Labor's 'softly-softly' approach that we can begin a zero tolerance fight against youth crime and anti-social behaviour,” he said.
Labor retained government in 2007 and there was no change.
In 2009, the Liberals continued their criticism of the station which by this time opened only during the day and was normally staffed by just one officer .
However, Opposition police spokesman Michael Gallagher said he could not yet say whether it would become a fully staffed, 24-hour operation if the Coalition won the 2011 election.
“I am not in a position to commit ourselves one way or the other way as to our exact policy, but the problems that existed in terms of police visibility have not gone away,” he said.
“Shopkeepers say they don't see the police around the centre enough, and if you are going to have a shopfront station you want maximum advantage from it.
“The message from residents is loud and clear and that is that they want more police in Menai and they want a fully-manned police station.”