'Austerity to blame' for rise in violent crime in South Yorkshire
Austerity has been roundly blamed for a rise in gang-related violence in South Yorkshire.
Speaking at a public meeting organised after a 12-year-old boy was shot in Sheffield, councillors, politicians and police all blamed a rise in violent crime on cost-cutting measures from central government.South Yorkshire's Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Billings said: "In 2010 we had 3,000 police officers throughout South Yorkshire. By last year we had 2,400 because of cuts year on year.Mr Billings said police numbers were now being increased for the first time in a decade but the force were simply "putting back" numbers they previously lost.Louise Haigh MP added: "Because of the horrendous cuts police haven't been able to respond as well as they would have liked or any of us would have liked to rising violent crime in particular."Despite cutbacks, chief superintendent Stuart Barton confirmed the number of police working in the area would be increased from six to nine with immediate effect. He said: "I know there's people saying you are not doing enough. We are trying with the numbers of police we've got. I'm 100 per cent passionate about trying to make Arbourthorne better."
Brian Aiken from Shiregreen attended the meeting. He provides martial arts classes and youth mentoring work with children in the area "to get them off the streets." The mentoring involves advising youngsters on what to do when they find themselves in potentially dangerous situations. Brian claimed one parent told him her eight-year-old son had a knife pulled out on him.He said: "It's because the kids are out on the streets, they have no places to go. When I was young we had loads of youth clubs."
Councillor Ben Miskell, who represents the Arbourthorne ward, was also in attendance.
He said: "I think we have seen organisations like South Yorkshire Police retreat from areas like Arbourthorne due to austerity. That's meant that community policing hasn't been a priority and it's allowed gang activity to take root.
"Austerity does have consequences and in our area it's all too evident."
Coun Miskell also confirmed he was setting up an Arbourthorne action group in the wake of the shootings to 'give local people a voice' on how to better their community.
Ms Haigh told residents: "What we really, really want is for this not to be a top-down thing. It can't be done without your involvement.” Councillor Terry Fox, Sheffield City Council's cabinet member for finance, also said the Council may look at diverting money from other areas to fund safer neighbourhood teams.
He said: "One of my jobs tonight is to sit here and listen to what residents want. If we are going to have to shave money off other budgets then that's what we'll have to do. We have got to deliver for our communities."