PCSOs solving some crimes – at £1.2m a time

Police community support officers cost up to £1.2m for each crime they solved last year, new research has claimed.

The 265 PCSOs in Nottinghamshire Police cost 7m in wages and detected six crimes in 2009/10, while the 311 support officers in South Wales cost 9.3m and solved eight crimes last year.

The statistics showed PCSOs cost each force almost 1.2m per crime, but police insisted their main role was not to detect crime, but "to be accessible, visible and provide reassurance to the community".

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act showed that PCSOs in Yorkshire fared better – but each crime still cost tens of thousands of pounds to solve.

The 197 North Yorkshire PCSOs cost 5.6m and detected 102 crimes, an average of 54,850 per crime, while the 325 PCSOs in the Humberside force detected 308 crimes and were paid 10.2m – an average of 33,150 per crime.

The figures showed that costs per crime detected in Nottinghamshire more than tripled from 354,000 in 2008/09 when they detected 19 crimes for wages of 6.7m.

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.

Humberside Police said PCSOs were "invaluable" as they "get to the heart of the communities in which they serve", while South Wales Police said their work to improve the quality of life for residents had made a "real difference."

Most forces said they did not hold information on the number of crimes detected by PCSOs while several refused to release the information.