Suffolk: They cost taxpayers nearly �5million last year – but the county’s police community support officers issued on average just ONE penalty notice a week!

SUFFOLK: Police community support officers handed out just one penalty notice a week each last year, new figures reveal.

New figures show Suffolk’s 171 police community support officers (PCSOs) gave out 9,316 fines in the last 12 months.

But Suffolk Police said they were unable to say how many crimes – if any – were detected by PCSOs.

The revelation comes following 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 have no powers of arrest but they can hand out fines for minor crimes, such as littering.

The figures, for the period December 1, 2009 to November 30, 2010, show 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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Emma Boon, a spokeswoman for the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “It is unacceptable that taxpayers are being asked to continue to pay for PCSOs when there is no way of measuring if they are actually solving crimes.

“With pressures on the public finances, taxpayers want real officers to be out catching criminals, not these ‘plastic’ policemen.”

Mick Richardson, secretary of the Suffolk Police Federation, said: “While the federation would always say we’d prefer fully-warranted police officers employed where possible, we understand the logic of the argument [that PCSOs cost the taxpayer less].

“I don’t think you can judge the value of PCSOs on the amount of fixed penalty notices issued, they are there to support police officers and for the policing of communities.

“I have to say that they are an integral part of the safer neighbourhood teams,” he added. “The work the PCSOs do can be invaluable, provided they are deployed and managed effectively.”

A spokesman for Suffolk police said: “PCSOs are employed to provide high visibility policing, supporting their police officer colleagues in the safer neighbourhood teams.”

The constabulary said it was unable to say how many crimes its PCSOs detected because of the way its systems record crimes. Incidents are assigned to invesitgating officers, rather than PCSOs.

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