Police defend PCSO role

SUFFOLK police today rejected claims that their 142 community support officers are paper tigers - with eyes and ears but no teeth.Vice chairman of the police federation, Alan Gordon, was reported nationally as condemning figures showing that on average police community support officers (PCSOs) solve one crime every six years.

SUFFOLK police today rejected claims that their 142 community support officers are paper tigers - with eyes and ears but no teeth.

Vice chairman of the police federation, Alan Gordon, was reported nationally as condemning figures showing that on average police community support officers (PCSOs) solve one crime every six years.

Suffolk in particular was singled out for criticism - where it was reported not one penalty notice for disorder was issued by a PCSO in the past year.

However a spokesman for Suffolk police said the figures were misleading - as PCSOs in the town do not have the power to issue penalty notices for disorder which takes place anywhere other than in police custody.

The spokesman said: “PCSOs have an important role in keeping our communities safe.

“They concentrate on combating low-level crime and anti-social behaviour while providing reassurance through high visibility patrols on the street.”

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Figures revealed following a request under the Freedom of Information Act showed that across England and Wales 27,711 fixed penalty notices were issued by 9,923 PCSOs in the last year - or 2.8 per officer.

However in Suffolk, as well as Staffordshire and Dyfed Powys, the figure was zero.

The police spokesman said this was only because the issuing of notices is not currently within their remit.

He said: “In Suffolk, PCSOs can issue fixed penalty notices for parking and associated offences.

“They can also issue penalty notices for disorder in police custody areas. The constabulary is looking to extend the scope of this power in the near future.”

Suffolk Police was unable to answer the second part of the information request - asking how many crimes had been detected by PCSOs in the same period - as the information is not available.

A Home Office spokesman said that powers of PCSOs are decided on a county level by the chief constable.

He added: “Detecting crime and handing out penalty notices is not the primary function of PCSOs - they are there primarily in a supporting role.”

Do you think police community support officers should have more of the powers of regular police officers? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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