QUESTIONS are being asked about why a Hampshire police station serving 40,000 people has been closed to the public for almost two weeks.
Residents are unable to visit Hythe police station to report crimes, raise concerns about antisocial behaviour or check whether missing items have been handed in at the lost property office.
The station covers Hythe - once dubbed "Dodge City" by police - and several other Waterside parishes.
However, a large sign outside the building, in Jones Lane, says the front office is closed until further notice.
Callers are advised to ring a police telephone operator via an emergency phone beside the front door.
Hythe county councillor Brian Dash, who lives only yards from the police station, said: "Officers are working in the building, but the front desk is not open to the public.
"It's not good enough. Hythe is part of a large area inhabited by more than 40,000 people."
John Towndrow, of Water Lane, Dibden Purlieu, went to the station to ask if a lost item had been handed in.
He said: "I called during the advertised opening hours but a notice on the door said closed until further notice'. Using the telephone beside the door, I spoke to a central inquiry officer who was unable to obtain any response from the station.
"Even though the car park was full and I could hear voices through the open windows."
Terry Scriven, the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary spokesman for New Forest East, has raised the issue with Chief Insp Gary Cooper.
Mr Scriven said he was told that the closure had been caused by sickness and staff shortages.
He added: "The chief inspector agreed that this could have been communicated to residents much more effectively. However, recruiting was now under way and the problem will be resolved."
A police spokesman said: "We are unable to open the inquiry office full-time at present due to staffing issues.
"A new station inquiry officer has been appointed and until the officer's start date, Sector Inspector Kevin Leckey is looking into ways of opening the office at peak times as a temporary measure."
Two years ago a police crackdown on antisocial behaviour in Hythe and Dibden was codenamed Operation Dodge City.http://www.thisishampshire.net/mostpopular.var.1695644.mostviewed.police_station_serving_40_000_is_closed.php