Community organisations to receive over £800,000 to tackle violent and organised crime in South Yorkshire

More than £800,000 will be spent over the next three months on the first phase of a fightback against violent and organised crime involving organisations at the heart of South Yorkshire communities.

Friday, 20th December 2019, 2:47 pm
Dr Alan Billings, Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire

Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Dr Alan Billings was awarded £1.6m in Government cash in August to set up a Violence Reduction Unit to help resolve knife crime and other serious issues affecting the count.

A stipulation of the award was that at least 20 per cent should be used to assist practical work to cut the escalating cycle of offending - but the decision was made to use more than half the cash for that purpose.

While work is going on to establish where the county's 'hot spots' for knife and violent crime exist, and draw up a formal strategy by the new Sheffield-based VRU, 34 organisations are now due getting direct funding to help their work.

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The grants are going to be used to reduce violent crime in South Yorkshire

PCC Dr Alan Billings said: "There is a recognition you cannot police your way out of serious violence. Police pick things up in the aftermath.

"You have somehow to get upstream of that and stop it happening. That is why this approach is the so-called public health approach," he said.

Eight schemes are targeted directly at tackling organised crime, which is known to both draw in and target the vulnerable, often featuring violence.

The rest is being spent with 26 groups which work either in specific communities or across the county to help protect those at risk from becoming victims of violence or from getting involved in carrying out that type of offending.

The grants are going to be used to reduce violent crime in South Yorkshire

More than 100 organisations bid for grants, with the 36 successful projects selected on the grounds of the services they aim to offer.

A diverse range of work will now follow, much of it working with young people but other projects aimed at other problems known to affect specific elements of society, such as help for ex-military personnel who are known to be at increased risk of failing to adjust to normal society after leaving the services.

Some will work with youth organisations, including a new Sports ofr Good - Fight for Good scheme which will operate across the county, using professional boxers to help engage young people and steer them into sport and away from the clutches of criminal society.

Work will also be done to improve the welfare of those subjected to domestic violence, improving the lives of both direct victims and their children - important because children who suffer adverse experiences are known to be at greater risk of getting into trouble as they grow older.

Although the current funding has to be spent by the end of the financial year and no official announcement has yet been made about the future of the scheme, it is expected the Home Office will continue to put more money into the project.

The PCC and Chief Constable have already agreed the VRU itself will survive next year, regardless of funding, but the amount of cash available to support projects will depend on how central Government chooses to finance it in future.

These are the organisations set to receive grants:

- A project called Haven which aims to help insulate children from the trauma of domestic violence will be rolled out at four secondary and four primary schools across Sheffield and Barnsley, using Violence Reduction Unit grant money.

It is a reaction to the fact that it is known 17,000 children in Sheffield alone are affected by domestic violence they witness at home, experiences which can have devastating consequences on their development and future lives.

The aim is to take a 'whole school' approach, training teachers and support staff to support children in those circumstances.

Long term, the aim is to change culture and end the 'bystander' approach, where some people are reluctant to react.

Meanwhile, a different project will provide Smartwater protection for domestic violence victims, providing the means to spray those with legal orders to stay away from their victims with a unique liquid which can be used to prove their presence.

- Sheffield's Cathedral Archer Project has been successful in getting people at risk of involvement in crime into work, through social enterprise organisations it has established and funding from the VRU will help to extend that work.

Of 28 people given job opportunities in the three years since the work started, 23 are still involved with the project and only one has been arrested.

In addition to providing work, counselling and recovery activities also form part of the package.

- Sheffield's Unity Gym is a charity based at Broomhall in Sheffield and spokesman Saeed Brasab told a launch event for Violence Reduction Unit funded projects the community had already lost three young people.

The gym works to divert youngsters away from the danger, or lure, of crime by helping those it works with to make positive life choices.

"We have had tragedies and we are responsive to the needs of young people," he said. "A lot has happened and this needs to be a long term plan. The grant will help with work we currently do.

- Doncaster's Lindholme Prison will get CCTV cameras to cover its accommodation units in an attempt to control those involved in organised crime.

Prison authorities know that type of offending is so lucrative prisoners try to continue their work from behind bars, often leading to violence.

Recent incidents have seen people hospitalised as a result of stabbings, branding, scalding and sexual assault, but a problem is a reluctance from victims and witnesses to co-operate with investigations for fear of recriminations.

It is hoped the CCTV cameras will help deter incidents and assist with investigations if they do take place.

- Doncaster is to get mobile CCTV units which can be installed temporarily in communities where police know organised criminals operate.

They can be attached to lamp posts - meaning they then operate in good light conditions - and will provide an answer to a reluctance from those in communities with knowledge of crime to come forward.

It is expected footage recorded will help police with investigations, but will also make residents feel more secure, in the knowledge surveillance is present.

- Door staff in Doncaster will be issued with 'search mitts' which have built in metal detectors, using cash from the VRU, allowing for quick and simple searches of customers trying to enter licenced premises.

It is known where 'knife arches' are used, those carrying weapons can simply walk away, but the mitts - fingerless gloves with built in metal detectors - are much less obvious and can be used to conduct accurate searches without direct physical contact.

That should allow security staff to keep weapons out of bars, which are known as potential flash-points for violence.

- Rotherham's Clifton Learning Partnership has secured funding from the VRU, to help with its work in the Eastwood area.

It uses adult classes and work on the streets, as well as advice and drop-in sessions, to work against problems including drugs, violence and theft.

The area has a strong east European community and the Partnership's work is predominantly in that area.

Spokeswoman Mahara Haque said: "We work on diversionary activities. It is about having conversations and finding out why people behave in the way they do.

"We will be talking to people out on the streets, we want to take a whole family approach. We want to know why problems occur, we want to understand the issues in the area.

"We want to move youths off the streets, work with schools and engage with schools," she said.

- Money from the Violence Reduction Unit is being used for work by Trading Standards staff in Barnsley to help combat the sale of counterfeit goods.

That trade is controlled by organised criminals and is important because the products they sell, like cigarettes and alcohol, could be harmful the buyers they target.

Because they sell goods which appear cheap, their actions can also create conflict with legitimate traders.

No specific details have been released, but the VRU backing will allow the team to acquire some the 'specialist tools' they need to identify and investigate those involved in the illicit trade.