Suffolk: Community Support Officers issue just one fine a week

NEW figures reveal police community support officers issued an average of one penalty notice a week during the past year – despite costing the taxpayer nearly �5million.

Suffolk’s 171 police community support officers (PCSOs) gave out 9,316 fines in the last 12 months. But Suffolk police said it was unable to confirm how many crimes – if any – they had detected.

This revelation follows a Freedom of Information request to Suffolk Constabulary.

A spokesman for the force defended the figures, saying PCSOs were employed to carry out high-visibility policing.

PCSOs, unlike uniformed police officers, have no powers of arrest, but they can hand out fines for minor crimes, such as littering.

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The figures, for the period between December 1, 2009, and November 30, 2010, showed PCSOs cost the taxpayer �4.98m.

The constabulary’s 171 PCSOs issued 9,309 fixed-penalty notices for traffic offences and seven penalty notices for disorder – which translates as 54.5 a year per officer.

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Responding to the figures, Emma Boon, a spokeswoman for the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “It is unacceptable that taxpayers are asked to continue paying for PCSOs. With pressure on public finances, we want real officers catching criminals, not these plastic policemen.”

Mick Richardson, secretary of the Suffolk Police Federation, said: “You can’t judge the value of PCSOs on the issuing of fixed-penalty notices. They are an integral part of the safer neighbourhood teams, supporting police officers and community policing.”

Suffolk police couldn’t confirm how many crimes its PCSOs had detected, because of the way its systems record crimes.

Incidents are assigned to investigating police officers, rather than PCSOs.

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