Community Focus: Sharrow working hard to reduce amount of crime on the streets

If ever there was an area that clearly showed the divide in standards of living in Sheffield, Sharrow undoubtedly offers the best representation.

Head up to Sharrow Vale Road and you can enjoy homemade food in restaurants which have stood for generations.

Needles found on the streets of Sharrow.

Needles found on the streets of Sharrow.

But travel less than half a mile down Sharrow Lane and the parks are scattered with drugs paraphernalia.

The area has certainly had its share of headlines over recent months - for good and bad.

It was at the centre of a night of mayhem in June when a man suffered a serious facial injury after reportedly being hit by an axe in Paddy Power bookmakers on London Road.

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Needles found on the streets of Sharrow.

Needles found on the streets of Sharrow.

Gunshots were then fired at a house on Wostenholm Road just three hours later.

Then in September, a man in his 30s was taken to hospital after he was found with gunshot injuries on the same road.

But the area was left celebrating after Sheffield General Cemetery was saved from possible closure and two paid members of staff at the site had their jobs saved just 24 hours before their leaving party.

Crime and, perhaps more importantly, fear of it, still dominate the area and talk among residents though.

A discarded needle in Sharrow.

A discarded needle in Sharrow.

One man, who has lived in Sharrow for more than 20 years, said: "Recently there has been a huge increase in drug materials being found in play areas.

"There has been a clamp down on drug use in the city centre but it's leading to everybody coming out to Sharrow."

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The resident, who did not want to be named, called for more CCTV in the area in the hope of reducing the risk posed to children in the area.

Sharrow Vale Road. Picture: Scott Merrylees

Sharrow Vale Road. Picture: Scott Merrylees

He said: "There should be more cameras because we are classed as central. London Road and Ecclesall Road has them so we should have them.

"Children around here are vulnerable and people need to help them out to make sure they don't get involved in something they shouldn't."

But, while crime may be more evident and apparent, the work being done to try and help youngsters living in the area perhaps goes a little under the radar.

One such organisation going about its business quietly, is the U-Mix Centre - a £2.5 million youth and community centre, on Asline Road.

Football Unites, Racism Divides (FURD), based at the centre, set up in 1995 to bring together communities in Sheffield and break down prejudice, using sport as its fundamental means of integration.

It is still going strong 23 years later and Howard Holmes co-founder of FURD, said constantly finding new ways to keep youngsters entertained had been a big part of the centre's success.

Coun Jim Steinke

Coun Jim Steinke

He said: "We have been going now for 23 years this year so we like to feel that in our area we are a significant project and are trusted and respected by people who live here.

"Much of the gang culture that there is and the terrible rise in violence that has taken place throughout the country and Sheffield has not been helped by cutting opportunities for young people to take part in sport and leisure activities."

Mr Holmes said the closure of a number of youth clubs across the city had contributed to the rise in violence on Sheffield's streets.

But he said the facilities at the U-Mix Centre were used by around 1,000 people a week - with its 3G football pitch most in demand.

Mr Holmes added: "The football pitch has helped us reach all sorts of peoople from different backgrounds and we've had very little in way of incidents at the actual centre - it's a bit of a haven in the area.

"Where we are it's like that but I wouldn't like to say everywhere in Sharrow is the same but we have to kep working at it and I think the fact that people like Jessica Ennis and Kyle Walker grew up in Sharrow has helped because they act as role models."

Sgt Samantha Cooper is in charge of the Sharrow and Abbeydale neighbourhood police team, which set up in January.

She said the team was working hard to reduce crime and antisocial behavbviour in the area and had already seized more than £500,000 worth of Class A and Class B drugs and cash.

Sgt Cooper said: “It's a lovely area but it’s a high priority area. We have got a dedicated team and we are working with our partner agencies to try and reduce crime and antisocial behaviour.

“We do get reports of drug dealing and we use the information to execute warrants. We have seized more than £500,000 worth of drugs and cash since January.”

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Sgt Cooper said the team is made up of 10 officers and PCSOs who work on the beat, patrolling the streets and working with community groups on sports and alternative activities.

She said: “People should feel safe in Sharrow. It’s a very vibrant area and we are currently working hard with other agencies and selective licensing to try and improve the area.”

At times of such desperate need, with crime levels rising and signs of criminality clear for all to see, the only solution can be pulling together as a community.

And that is exactly what happened after mayhem broke out on the streets of Sharrow on Bonfire Night 2015.

Three police officers were injured – one seriously – as they clashed with louts hurling fireworks.

But Sharrow councillor Jim Steikne, who is also Sheffield Council’s cabinet member for neighbourhoods and community safety, said police, residents and the authority all worked together to ensure families felt safe in and around Mount Pleasant Park, where the violence erupted.

He said: “Three years ago we had some appalling incidents on Bonfire Night and leading up to that we had a group of kids who thought they ‘owned’ the park.

“The police got together with the local authority and residents and said ‘we’ve had enough’. We got some funding from the authority and organised the autumn festival.”

The third annual festival will take place again on Saturday, November 3, in Highfield Adventure Playground and include a lnatern workshop from 3pm until 5pm.

There will then be entertainment from dance groups from 4pm, before the parade leaves the playground at 6pm.

The parade will travel up South View Road and down Vincent Road, led by the with music and Indian drumming.

Coun Steinke said: “I think it’s an example of how things can improve and there were concerns from residents that those involved would end up in the criminal justice system.

“But we managed to clear up the park and surrounding areas without putting anyone through it. Working together we made a difference and that is what it’s all about."