How much of a difference do PCSOs really make?

Statistics from the Home Office seem to show that PCSOs are not related to lower levels of crime – particularly street level crimes.

  • More PCSOs don’t reduce street level crime

Rates of theft from a vehicle high in areas with more PCSOs

I started out looking for the positive relationship between numbers of PCSOs and crime.

I tried to look at crimes that might reasonably be expected to decrease where PCSO numbers were higher. I looked at crimes such as theft from a person, theft from a vehicle, bike theft, anti social behaviour and criminal damage to a vehicle.

PCSO numbers have no relationship with reducing street level crime

Unfortunately, it seemed that higher PCSO numbers weren’t associated with reduced rates of those types of community crimes…

In fact, it seemed as though the more PCSOs there were per 1,000 inhabitants, the higher the crime rates of the crimes.

To illustrate this, I’ve picked a variety of different police force areas from across England and Wales, with vastly different numbers of PCSOs. Cumbria is one of the police force areas with the fewest PCSOs per thousand inhabitants, whereas the Metropolitan Police have the most.

This is an example of the number of thefts from a person per 1,000 inhabitants of the police force area. In Cumbria, there are 0.26 thefts from a person per 1,000 inhabitants. In Essex that figure rises to 0.76, while in West Yorkshire it’s up as high as 2.08. In London, the number is more than twice that.

Yet out of all these areas, Cumbria is the one with the fewest PCSOs, with only 0.20 PCSOs per 1,000 inhabitants. West Mercia and Essex both have slightly more, with 0.23. Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire have 0.31 and 0.34 respectively, but with the most PCSOs per thousand inhabitants is the Metropolitan police area, with 0.50.

So it seems as though the higher the number of PCSOs in an area, the higher the rate of muggings.

And this trend is repeated for other similar street level crimes…

If we look at theft from a vehicle, the places with the fewest PCSOs per thousand inhabitants – Cumbria, West Mercia and Essex – also have the lowest rates of theft from a vehicle…

Meanwhile the areas with the largest numbers of PCSOs per thousand inhabitants – Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire and the Metropolitan police force area, have the highest rates of theft from vehicle.

Onthebeat101 knows about the great work that PCSOs do – but why isn’t this reflected in the data?

Why don’t increased numbers of PCSOs reduce crime? Am I missing something?

Are traditional crime statistics adequately representing the impact and successes of PCSOs in the community?

Is there a way to measure the benefits of PCSOs?

Please give us your input in a comment below or email it to

The data I used is all taken from Home Office spreadsheets. You can have a look at my spreadsheets here.

On the beat 101 wants to find out what lies behind these figures and needs your help to do it!