Police community support officers cost up to £1.2 million for each crime they detected last year, figures show.
The 265 PCSOs in Nottinghamshire Police cost £7 million in wages and detected six crimes in 2009/10, while the 311 support officers in South Wales cost £9.3 million and detected eight crimes in 2009, according to figures released by the forces.
The statistics showed PCSOs cost each force almost £1.2 million per crime, but the forces warned that the main role of their PCSOs was not to detect crime, but “to be accessible, visible and provide reassurance to the community”.
The figures, released under the Freedom of Information Act, showed the cost of PCSOs per crime in Nottinghamshire more than tripled from £354,000 in 2008/09 when they detected 19 crimes for wages of £6.7 million. This compared with six crimes for £6.6 million – an average of £1.1 million per crime – in 2007/08. Nottinghamshire PCSOs also issued 158 penalty notices in 2009/10, equivalent to a cost of £44,560 per notice, compared with £27,330 in 2008/09 (246 penalty notices) and £29,370 in 2007/08 (223 penalty notices).
In South Wales, the cost of PCSOs per crime almost doubled last year from £640,700 in 2008 when they detected 14 crimes for wages of £9 million. This compared with 10 crimes for £8.5 million – an average of £853,000 per crime – in 2007. South Wales PCSOs also issued 5,305 penalty notices last year, equivalent to a cost of £1,758 per notice, compared with £1,822 in 2008 (4,923 penalty notices) and £1,931 in 2007 (4,415 penalty notices).
Elsewhere, the 237 PCSOs in Leicestershire were credited with detecting 343 crimes while being paid £5.1 million wages last year, an average of £14,800 per crime and the 325 PCSOs in the Humberside force detected 308 crimes and were paid £10.2 million – an average of £33,150 per crime.
And the 159 PCSOs in North Wales, whose wages totalled £3.4 million last year, detected 82 crimes, making an average cost of £41,305 per crime while 197 North Yorkshire PCSOs cost £5.6 million and detected 102 crimes, an average of £54,850 per crime.
Assistant Chief Constable Julian Kirby, of South Wales Police, said: “The role of Police Community Support Officers is to develop and sustain community cohesion, which they are valued for here in South Wales. Their work to improve the quality of life for residents comes to fruition in a variety of ways and has made a real difference.”
A Nottinghamshire Police spokeswoman said: “Police Community Support Officers play a vital role in providing a visible uniformed presence, and helping to make people feel safe and reassured by getting to the root of issues having an impact on their quality of life.”
The spokeswoman added that a PCSO could be “instrumental” in helping to detect crime but it could still be allocated to an officer in the case due to the reporting systems used by the forces, meaning PCSOs could have been involved in detecting many more than the official figures show.