THE war against gang crime has stepped up a gear in Sheffield - with members and those at risk of becoming embroiled getting ‘one last chance’ to break free.
Government cash has been awarded to fund a project to tackle Sheffield’s most problematic families in a bid to break the cycle of crime many find themselves in and to prevent the next generation from becoming tomorrow’s criminals.
Its main aims are to reduce gang-related youth violence and child exploitation by working with a key group of families constantly in trouble with the police and known to most other agencies in the city, including Sheffield Council, the youth offending service, probation, health and education services.
Families identified by the agencies as being in need of help will be offered a package of support and advice.
If they refuse to comply, enforcement action will be taken which could see residents lose their homes for breaching the terms of their tenancy agreements, police raids and investigations, and the serving of ‘gang injunctions’ which bar people from associating with specified individuals if they are known or suspected of being part of a gang.
Chief Superintendent Simon Torr, of South Yorkshire Police, who is chairman of the new group, said: “This is all about identifying those families that need the most support and giving them the opportunities to change. If they choose to ignore that support then hard edge enforcement will follow,” he said.
“There will be support for education, parenting, health issues and opportunities for young people through a partnership of agencies working together.
“The same people are being seen by all the different agencies in the city time and time again. I see people that I arrested when I was a PC still being arrested today. This work is about changing that and giving people one last chance.”
He said it was ‘innovative’ work and still in its ‘embryonic’ stages, but he was hopeful of some good results.
“This is about us identifying the families most in need of support to stop the next generation from taking the same path in life - it’s about breaking the cycle,” he added.
“They may feel that they cant escape from this path of crime so we need to help them.”
Sheffield’s postcode gangs hit the headlines in 2007 when the S3 and S4 rivalry in Burngreave and Pitsmoor escalated out of control and 16-year-old Jonathan Matondo ended up shot dead near a children’s playground.
His killer has never been found but police believe he was gunned down by a rival gang member.