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Taxpayers pay snitches £1.9mill

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Scotland Yard paid out £2 million in rewards to informants in the battle against organised crime last year.

The force paid £1,908,345 in tip-offs for information, a small increase on the previous year. Spending on informants by the Met has grown considerably over the past five years, from £1,255,262 in 2004/05.

The figure includes significant payments made to individuals in the fight against drug trafficking, Yardie-style gun gangs and other major criminals.

Local CID units also employ informants in an effort to identify local burglars and street robbers. However, police are reluctant to discuss their role and importance in fighting crime.

They remain a key and cost-effective weapon against crooks despite huge advances in surveillance technology and police techniques.

A source said : “We can use all the technology available such as CCTV and other covert methods but often a tip-off is the most effective.”

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: “The use of informants to assist in police investigations is one part of the armoury used by forces to defend and protect the public. Their use has proved vital in bringing offenders to justice in cases ranging from serious organised crime to burglary.”

There is evidence MI5 shares this view and has redoubled its efforts in recent years to recruit informants, particularly in the fight against Islamic terrorism.

A board of officers within Scotland Yard oversees the use of informants to ensure they remain safe and that their handlers act within the law.

A review is under way of all procedures, from registering informers to monitoring the value of information they provide.

Critics fear informant-handling procedures could be abused by officers because large amounts of cash change hands under a cloak of secrecy.

Although the identities of informants are closely guarded, senior officers have access to statistics about their ethnicity and overall number.

The figures are contained in internal budget files for 2009/10 which have been filed by accountants and published by the Metropolitan Police Authority.

The papers revealed a further £176,250 was spent on travel, accommodation and meals for police informant handlers.

They also showed £3,933,306 was spent on secret surveillance operations against organised criminal gangs and terrorists. The figure was made up of £1,861,501 for covert operations, £645,948 for covert terrorist operations and £1,425,857 on covert running costs.

A further £105,066 was paid to ensure broken down or damaged cars, vans and motorbikes used in undercover work were recovered without undue attention.

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