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.
The statistics reveal unusual weapons used in armed raids in South Yorkshire include an egg, a dog lead, crockery, a 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, relived her ordeal in the wake of the new figures. She said: “It was about 10 minutes before closing and 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, with an increase of nine per cent between 2011 and 2015.
But South Yorkshire Police pointed to a 5.5 per cent year on year drop from 2014 to 2015 as evidence that the crime is reducing.
During the incidents, there were 5,949 weapons used – although some incidents may have involved multiple weapons, and 2,142 of those involved ‘fist or hands’ used as a weapons.
The figures reveal knives, handguns, hammers and machetes were the most used weapons for business robberies across South Yorkshire, with supermarkets, bookmakers, newsagents and off-licences the top targets.
Across all robberies, there were 123 instances of handguns being used, 76 involving a metal bar, 74 involving a baseball bat.
A total of 492 knives were used in robberies, including 293 kitchen knives, 10 lock knives and 71 machetes.
Garry Weatherall, Sheffield city 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 third highest amount of robberies in Sheffield outside the city centre.
Sheffield city councillor for Broomhill 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.”
South Yorkshire Police’s Detective Chief Inspector Steve Whittaker added: “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.”
DCI Whittaker added that although police budgets have been cut, it has 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.
“We ask anybody to be vigilant, and if you do have information about a robbery, call us on 101.”
THE STATS - HOW DOES YOUR AREA FARE?
Sheffield, 2015 - Top police wards for armed robbery, number of incidents in descending order
2. Burngreave - 255
3. Sharrow & Highfields 220
4. Broomhill 138
5. Firth Park
6. Darnall 126
7. Manor Castle
8. Gleadless Valley
8. Southey - 79
10. Arbourthorne - 76
MOST POPULAR WEAPON TYPE FOR BUSINESS ROBBERIES (note - some robberies may use multiple at once)
5,949 weapons used overall
1. Verbal threats - 146
2. Fists/hands - 109
3. Knife/dagger - 84
4. Kitchen knife - 63
5. Handgun - 65
6. Hammer - 45
7. Machete - 27
8. Axe - 18
9. Metal bar - 17
10. Baseball bat - 16
FOR A FULL BREAKDOWN OF ALL THE ROBBERY HOTSPOTS AND STATS, PICK UP A COPY OF THE STAR TODAY, MONDAY, MARCH 14