Latest figures released by the force show numbers taken into custody by the force were up by as much as 11 per cent in certain periods during the last 12 months, compared to the previous year.
An additional 1,400 people were arrested in the last three months of 2018, compared to the first three months of the year, with figures of 4,301 and 5,730 respectively.
That change provides a strong indicator that changes made to the force – including the re-introduction and subsequent strengthening of neighbourhood police teams – is having the intended effect.
CID teams which had been centralised have now been re-established in the county’s four policing ‘districts’ and specialist teams have been set up to tackle some of the county’s most pressing crime matters, including Operation Fortify which is addressing knife crime and other serious offending, alongside Operation Shield, where officers have been working successfully across Sheffield and Doncaster to address a spike in household burglaries.
Neighbourhood policing is seen as a valuable element of improving the force’s performance against criminals, with locally based officers providing vital intelligence on criminal problems on their patch as well as working to resolve problems themselves, which can involve arresting suspects.
While not all arrests will end in prosecutions the latest statistics, presented to South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings at a meeting of his Public Accountability Board, where the force’s performance is examined, show a turn around from an era several years ago where the force was contracting, demand was increasing and arrest numbers were in decline.
Chief Constable Stephen Watson said: “About three years ago the force felt like it was on the cusp of drowning.
“Where the water was just below the nose, it has receded to the point where police can respond to new and emerging demands,” he said.
Senior officers are committed to expanding neighbourhood policing, with 40 additional officers being recruited for that work this year.
A review of that policing system is also taking place, which involves an examination of the role PCSOs play, alongside their warranted officer colleagues.
No decisions have yet been taken, with consultations still in progress with PCSOs, but recent budget decisions have safeguarded neighbourhood teams.
As they continue to work to reduce demand on their ‘response’ colleagues, the team of officers who answer 999 calls, it is expected more will be diverted into the problem-solving neighbourhood work, which prevents crimes happening in the first place.
An example of the success of that concept is in Barnsley, where reduced demand has freed up enough officers to create an additional neighbourhood team, recently introduced for the Cudworth area.