Acid attacks in Sheffield 'have become method of intimidation for organised criminals'
Dousing acid over an intended target has become a method of intimidation for organised criminals in Sheffield, it has been claimed.
There were 11 ‘corrosive-based offences’ reported to South Yorkshire Police between April 2019 and June 2020, including six instances when the intent was ‘to cause serious harm’ to someone, a Freedom of Information request has found.
In Sheffield, acid-like substances have been used to target cars in recent months, with five incidents reported in Nether Edge alone since April.
Labour councillor Jim Steinke, who represents Nether Edge and Sharrow, said the ‘relatively new’ problem is worsened by the easy availability of ‘common household acids’.
He said: "You are talking about really common stuff, really corrosive stuff, I’m sure it’s fairly easy to get.
“In terms of why property is targeted, people’s pride and joy is often their vehicle, even more than their house. It’s not just ‘We know what car is yours’ but ‘We know you polish it every day’."
Cllr Steinke said organised criminals use such attacks to frighten ordinary people and deter others from speaking out.
He said: “The worrying thing for me is that anyone who raises objections, do they become a target? It’s like ‘If you start talking this is what happens’.”
One victim, who did not want to be named for fear of reprisals, said ‘that’s exactly what it is’, adding ‘it’s literally been months and months of hell’.
They have spent about £2,500 on ‘target hardening’ to deter future attacks after paint stripper and break fluid – two readily available ‘weapons’ – were used to damage their property.
They added: “It does have an impact on an ongoing basis. You think about it and worry when it’s going to happen again and it creates a financial strain.”
An acid attack in June stripped the paint from one car to the metal, melted the plastic trim and ruined a rear light.
A South Yorkshire Police spokesman said such attacks “are often targeted, where the victim is known to the offender”.
“Attacks involving a corrosive substance are one of the most distressing assaults a person can commit against another,” he added.
“The victims of these attacks can be left with life-changing injuries and in extreme pain, alongside the long term effects on their mental health.”