Smith said that the minimum age for PCSOs will be raised from 16 to 18 next month, and that they will have powers to confiscate alcohol in public places, seize drugs, and issue fixed-penalty notices for antisocial behaviour, among 17 other powers.
There are currently 16,000 PCSOs working to improve neighbourhood policing.
The announcement follows an agreement between Smith and the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) about ways to reinforce PCSOs’ role in law enforcement.
The home secretary also welcomed a project aimed at the greater standardisation of equipment, uniforms, training and career development, and Acpo has commissioned the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) to lead the project.
Smith said: “The role of a PCSO is a challenging and rewarding one which benefits our communities.
“Today’s announcements will allow them to further develop the role. I am pleased that Acpo shares my view that PCSOs should be at least 18 years old. Standardisation of powers, uniforms and equipment across all forces will ensure that the public know exactly who their PCSOs are, and what to expect from them,” she said.
Matt Baggott, chief constable of Leicestershire Police and Acpo lead on neighbourhood policing, said: “We agree that the minimum age ought to be 18 years old and will be looking at the relevant legislation and guidance.”