More police funding has been demanded after figures obtained by The Star reveal a rise in robberies across South Yorkshire since 2011.
A 25 per cent surge in robberies at businesses, and a nine per cent overall increase, has prompted Sheffield councillors to call for more funding to help police tackle the crimes.
Robbery is theft from a person or place, and often violence is threatened or used.
Figures reveal unusual weapons used include an egg, dog lead, crockery, fork, hypodermic needles and ‘bodily fluids including blood/saliva/excreta’.
Unusual locations for personal robberies include three robberies at massage parlours, 15 in churchyards or cemeteries, 10 at skate parks and 17 in prisons.
Dionne Parkin, owner of Sunbeams Tanning Salon, Greenhill, a victim of armed robbery last year, told The Star: “Two men came through the door with their faces covered.
“One of them took a gun out and demanded money. He was quite aggressive, banging the gun on the counter. It was such a shock.”
A total of 3,875 robberies were reported across Sheffield, Barnsley, Rotherham and Doncaster between 2011 and 2015, an increase of nine per cent from 2011 to 2015.
But South Yorkshire Police pointed to a 5.5 per cent fall from 2014 to 2015 as evidence the crime is falling.
During the incidents, there were 5,949 weapons used – although some offences involved multiple weapons and 2,142 involved ‘fist or hands’ as a weapon.
Knives, handguns, hammers and machetes were the most used weapons for business robberies, with supermarkets, bookmakers, newsagents and off-licences top targets.
Across all robberies, there were 123 instances of handguns being used, 76 involving a metal bar, 74 a baseball bat.
A total of 492 knives were used, including 293 kitchen knives, 10 lock knives and 71 machetes.
Garry Weatherall, Sheffield councillor for Firth Park which had 132 robberies between 2011 and 2015, said: “It is disappointing to hear these figures.Residents tell me they never see a police officer on the street, and that’s because of police funding cuts. I don’t blame the police – they have been cut like everybody else.”
Broomhill had the fourth highest number of robberies.
Broomhill councillor Brian Webster said: “Government cutting police funding is just another example of short-sighted ideologically driven policies.
“We need a full restoration of budgets not just to South Yorkshire Police but to local government as a whole.”
He said Broomhill was targeted by opportunistic criminals because of its high student population and suggested more work could be done with letting agents to remove ‘to let’ signs.
But South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Billings stressed the crime had fallen year on year.
He said: “When we talk about ‘armed robberies’ we need to reassure the public that that includes imitation guns and plastic guns, and none of them were discharged.
“I don’t think we have a gang problem or a gun problem in Sheffield, or a big problem around armed robberies.
“We have a problem, but not a big one.
“There was a rise in robbery between 2011 and 2014, but last year we had a fall by nearly six per cent. It’s going in the right direction. The question for me is ‘how can I keep that going?’
“Overall crime has been going down for a number of years but that will not continue if budget cuts continue.”
Detective Chief Inspector Steve Whittaker said: “Robberies are extremely serious offences and any increase in crime is a concern.
“This year we expect to see a drop, and that is down to the hard work we have done tackling this.
“We will always try to reassure the public and we have put local patrols in the areas most affected and have made successful arrests.”
He said police budgets cuts had not impacted on the number of officers on the frontline.
He added: “Although some officer numbers have been cut, we have better resourcing, better tasking and briefing and we are using those officers more strategically in hotspots of crime.
“We have undertaken successful operations in Sheffield to tackle knife crime including putting officers in underpasses where robberies occur and we have used both covert and overt tactics.”
Top locations for business robberies:
1. Supermarket 113
2. Bookies 46
3. Newsagent 44
4. Off licence 30
5. Petrol station 25
6. Greengrocers 19
7. Jewellers 10
8. Fish & chip/takeaway 7
9. Travel agents 4
10. Frozen food shop 2
Top locations for personal robberies:
1. Dwellings (all combined) 620
2. Alley/gennel/footpath 274
3. Outside premises 193
4. Land/waste ground 52
5. Bus stop 18
6. Prison 17
7. Churchyard/cemetery 15
8. Private flat car park 14
9. Bus station 13
10. Skate park 10
Sheffield 2011-2015 – top police wards for robbery, number of incidents in descending order
1. Centre 463 - 36.1% up from 2011 to 2015
2. Burngreave 255 - 1.9% up
3. Sharrow & Highfields 220 - 21.2% down
4. Broomhill 138 - 43.4% down
5. Firth Park 132 - 23.2% down
6. Darnall 126 - 29.1% up
7. Manor Castle 109 - 44% down
8. Gleadless Valley 79 - 47% down
8. Southey 79 - 33.3% down
10. Arbourthorne 76 - 7.7% down