Police officers spurn community helpers

COMMUNITY support officers are struggling to win over some sections of Suffolk police, despite helping to cut crime by ten per cent last year, a report claimed today.

COMMUNITY support officers are struggling to win the support of some sections of Suffolk police, despite helping to cut crime by ten per cent last year, a report claimed today.

An investigation by Suffolk chief constable Alastair McWhirter found nearly a third of the town's 15 officers feel they have been poorly treated by some staff at the force.

Yet their appointment, in December 2003, has coincided with a ten per cent drop in overall town centre crime last year, compared with 2003.

Theft and handling of stolen goods dropped by 17pc, from 2,480 to 2,058, and criminal damage by nearly 14pc, from 826 to 712. Burglarys were also cut by 52pc, from 481 to 228.

However, violence against the person jumped by 16pc, from 996 to 1,158, and robbery by 10pc, from 65 to 72.

Mr McWhirter said: "It is difficult to directly attribute changes in recorded crime simply to the deployment of community support officers (CSOs), where a variety of other social, economic an demographic factors might also have a role to play.

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"However, the data would certainly suggest the CSOs have made a positive impact in relation to overall crime levels in Ipswich town centre."

Even though their role has drawn praise from the chief constable, a survey has found that nearly a third were unhappy with the attitude of police sergeants towards them.

And while 79pc were satisfied with their contact with constables, 64pc were unhappy with their relationship with special constables.

Differences in opinion between CSOs and other police staff, including officers up to inspector rank and plain clothes officers, were also uncovered.

When asked whether CSOs made a "positive difference to fear of crime in the community", 86pc of CSOs agreed, compared with just 42pc of other police staff.

A statement claiming CSOs had been warmly welcomed by the public was agreed with by 71pc of csos, but only 36pc of other employees.

Mr McWhirter said: "It is apparent CSOs feel they have been received most positively by senior officers and least by plain clothes officers/CID. This is not unexpected due to the lack of contact there would be between these two types of role.

"Of some concern is that some feel the reception by uniformed sergeants has been poor. This is of some concern given that uniformed sergeants are their designated supervisors."

Nationally, there has been concern the introduction of the civilian officers could blur the boundary with police constables.

However, the government has pledged to introduce 25,000 CSOs by 2008. Funding has been secured for a further 22 for Suffolk, although they have yet to be appointed.

The government will pay 50pc of their costs until the end of 2005/06.

What do you think of CSOs? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk