Northamptonshire Police has the highest proportion of special constables per head of population in the country, according to new figures.
The statistics have been welcomed by the chief constable and the police and crime commissioner.
A new report published by Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary (HMIC) has found that Northamptonshire Police has 350 special constables, which is 74 per cent above the national average and equivalent to 0.54 special constables per 1,000 people. This compares with the national average of 0.31.
PCC Adam Simmonds has a stated intention of increasing the number of specials to 900 by May 2016.
According to latest figures from Northamptonshire Police there are currently 380 special constables- at the beginning of PCC Simmond’s term the force had 280 special constables.
Speaking earlier today, Chief Constable Adrian Lee said he recognised there needed to be a “step-change” in the recruitment rate to hit the 900 target by 2016 and said he would like to encourage a wider age range of people to apply to be specials.
Mr Lee said: “I’m very pleased we are the national leaders in this respect and confident we will continue to see an increase in both the number of specials and their contribution to tackling crime and anti-social behaviour.
“Specials have played an important part in policing for many years but we have become more flexible in our approach to training and the role itself, opening it up to those who may have not considered becoming a special.
“I would like to encourage people of an older age group who already have a strong sense of community.”
The chief constable said the force would be offering several different opportunities such as a Parish Special Constable who could patrol the town or village they lived in.
Mr Lee said he was committed to keeping police officer numbers at 1220 and the specials would be used to increase the overall visible presence on the streets of Northamptonshire not replace current staff.
Specials have contributed 87,733 hours to date in 2014, an increase from 70, 510 hours in 2013 and 42,152 in 2012.
PCC Simmonds denied that the specials recruitment drive was “policing on the cheap” and said the new recruits would add value to the police service.
He said: “The special officers will still be equipped properly. This is not a Blue Peterish, cheap option
“Our specials talk about the many, varied benefits they gain personally from joining up and this latest figure proves just how much the time they commit benefits all of us.”
So far in 2014, the special constabulary in Northamptonshire has made 648 arrests, recorded 1,014 crimes and attended 5,070 emergency incidents.
The average hours performed by each officer in 2014 are more than 25 hours per month compared with 16 hours per month in January 2012.
A series of ‘taster’ event are due to be organised by Northamptonshire Police when people interested in becoming a special constable can find out more about what is involved.