POLICE officers based in Basildon have been crowned team of the year at an awards ceremony.

The Basildon retail crime unit, which was set up in 2012 to tackle shoplifting in the borough, was handed the EssexPolice Award for Team of the Year at a ceremony in Chelmsford, attended by more then 200 officers, staff and volunteers working with the force.

Sergeant Paul Costin, based at Billericay police station, was also handed the award for commendable or meritorious achievement in the field of crime reduction.

He was recognised by the judges for his work in reducing scrap metal crimes and enforcing legislation ensuring both carriers and scrap metal yards are licensed.

Danielle Hutton, who is also based at Billericay, beat competition from 12 other officers across Essex to be named police constable of the year.

Sgt Simon Gray, head of Basildon’s retail crime unit, which is made up of nine police constables and four PCSOs, said he was extremely proud of his team’s award.

He added: “We were up against 18 teams on the night and came out on top, which was brilliant.

“We were recognised for various things we do with retail businesses in the town.

“But one of our biggest achievements is that 74.68 per cent of all shoplifting offences in Basildon are detected – which makes us the best performing borough in the county.

“We have a brilliant team here and it was an extremely proud moment receiving the award.”

He thanked Echo readers for giving them the information needed to do their jobs.

He added: “We would like to thank the Echo readers who get in touch with us after seeing CCTV pictures in the paper.

“We have had a lot of great results from that.”

Sgt Costin said: “I received four nominations in total and was very happy to win the award for my work around scrapmetal.

“More importantly though, I was delighted to see PC Danielle Hutton win the award for police constable of the year.

“I nominated Danielle for the award, and she really has established herself within the team as a hardworking officer.”

The sensitive nature of PC Hutton’s work means the Echo cannot publish details.

But judges said she was nominated “for her outstanding work in the community”.

Basildon’s District Commander, Chief Insp Josie Hayes, said: “My retail crime unit have been doing a marvellous job in not only identifying shoplifters in the area, but also deterring people from committing the crime.

“Since its inception just over a year ago, it has been working tirelessly with retailers across the borough.”