INFORMANTS have been paid nearly £2 million by South Yorkshire Police over the last 12 years, The Star can reveal.
The force paid £152,115 to ‘intelligence sources’ - people who pass on confidential information to the police for cash - between April 2011 and March 2012, down from £181,440 the year before.
Over the last 12 years, police chiefs paid the most between April 2007 and March 2008, when £190,178 was given for information to help police solve or prevent crimes.
The lowest amount paid out over the same period was £97,000 between April 2001 and March 2002.
South Yorkshire Police has a network of informants across the county who pass on ‘intelligence’ about offenders responsible for crimes or offences being planned.
They also help the force ‘build up a picture’ of what is happening in communities, to help police chiefs identify emerging problems.
Detective Superintendent Adrian Teague, of Specialist Crime Services, said paying informants was just one weapon in the police armoury in the fight against crime.
“For as long as there has been policing there have been informants, it’s not a new phenomenon,” he said. “But the term informants has derogatory connotations - we call them intelligence sources.
“These people do exist and add value to policing. We rely on information and intelligence from the public to help us to prevent and reduce crime.
“It is a regimented and legislative system - it’s not something to take lightly. There are codes of practice to adhere to. We are independently scrutinised to make sure we are acting within the law.
“Some people give information out of public spiritedness, but there are others who seek financial reward.
“Police forces can receive information this way to assist locally, nationally and internationally.
“We assess what information they have, the motivation for giving it to us, and the risk there may be to that individual - it’s a detailed and very thorough process.
“We have to corroborate what they are saying to make sure we are not being misled.
“Intelligence sources don’t get a wage - we assess the information and try to corroborate it. It’s not money for nothing.
“If it leads to a successful arrest, the recovery of drugs or stolen property, or prevents a offence, then we would consider making a reward.”
He said each piece of intelligence is assessed against a scale, with information helping to solve murders at the top end.
Det Supt Teague also said the amount the information saves the force is also taken into consideration.
If a tip-off leads to the speedy apprehension of a murderer without a full scale search being needed, it could save the force thousands.
“For a minimal outlay we can recover large quantities of drugs and stolen vehicles, reduce and prevent crimes, and save lives,” he said.
“If we receive information that someone is in possession of a firearm and planning on using that in a gang-related scenario, for example, we would be able to recover the firearm, make an arrest and reduce the risk to the public.”
South Yorkshire Police is having to make savings of around £40 million because of Government funding cuts.
This financial year the force has a budget of £251m - with £164m allocated to police officer salaries, £61m to paying support staff, £7m for running premises, £5m for transport costs and £14m for all other bills.
It has to make savings of £43m by March 2015 because of Government funding cuts.