Identify a research topic
‘Northampton Borough Council and Northamptonshire Police are to slash almost 50 PCSOs and could leave vulnerable members of the public “stranded” The cuts, if passed, would also have a “knock-on” effect on other parts of society’ (Northampton Chronicle and Echo 2012).
In my local town of Northampton, Police Community Support Officers are to have their funding cut by the County Council and the Police service themselves will be asked to pay for them. This reduction could lead to the reduction or abolition of all PCSOs in the area. The aim of this research proposal is to investigate weather PCSOs are still valued in society and particularly in view of the Government funding cut backs across the UK, are they worth the Police or Councils paying for them?
There has already been a considerable amount of research conducted on the role of PCSOs in the community, but limited research has been conducted on whether or not they are effective, and if they provide taxpayers with value for money. Therefore, I propose that my dissertation will expand on these issues, and focus, on the ‘cost effectiveness’ of PCSOs and their value to society. In order to contextualise this research, I will focus on the history of policing and the introduction of PCSOs, the current role of PCSOs, and whether attitudes have changed to them over time. I will try to find out if it is rational to have them, have they had an impact on crime figures over time? Are they valuable enough to keep and what are the other alternatives for the police and for society.
The lack of previous research on this topic makes it a worthy area of study. A deeper understanding of this subject would enable tax payers to find out more about what their money is spent on. This research would have a political interest, as the Government is cutting funding for public services and this has led to cuts in funding for PCSOs. Evidence about their effectiveness could show their real value to society. It would mean that different factors could be taken into account when decisions about public spending are made in the future. There would also be a social interest, as ‘the fear of crime remains high despite year-on-year declines in crime levels’ (Simmons et al., 2002: 79-85). So, there is a need for a visible police force to reassure people and this is what PCSOs provide. They can also combat minor crimes such as anti social behaviour and reduce crime by their visible presence, especially in city centre hot spots, providing a conspicuous street presence which frees police to focus elsewhere or assisting in tasks such as checking second-hand traders for stolen property, conducting door to door enquiries and so on (Crawford et al., 2005). They also forge links with certain groups within society, such as young people. This can have great value to communities, which is why this research would be beneficial to the authorities who may be paying for PCSOs in the future, as they will be able to judge if they are good value for money. Furthermore, this is in the current context of all the media coverage in my local area about whether PCSOs will continue to be funded in the present climate of cutbacks. It is likely that my research will be in the public interest in furthering our understanding of what PCSOs actually do in society, how effective they are, and how much society values them.
In an effort to focus on the value PCSOs have in society, I will need to look at the variables that may show this, for example, the role they have, the cost, how many there are, if it is rational to keep them, do they influence crime statistics and what the other alternatives to PCSOs may be. The findings that I obtain from the research will help me to consider the proposed research topic ‘The Evaluation of the Effectiveness of PCSOs’. I will consider if, in this current economic climate, PCSOs can be shown to be of value to the Police service and the...