Today the Daily Express reports that Police Community Support Officers solve one crime every six years and hand out fines at a rate of one every four months. The justification provided by the Home Office for their continued existence and, indeed, the expansion of the programme is illuminating:
"Their primary role is to provide high-visibility reassurance, build confidence in communities and support police officers."
Whether they provide a greater support to police officers than increasing the number of full officers who can share the burden of detecting crime is debatable. It seems more likely that the real reasons for the expansion in the number of PCSOs are "reassurance" and "building confidence". This is politician-speak for "we don't really think that having police officers on the beat is worthwhile but the public like it so let's fob them off with the cheapest officers we can find". The politicians have bought their own spin about falling rates of crime, based upon suspect data. The public know better so giving them proper democratic control is the way to ensure proper priorities within our police forces.