Crime falls sharply in Sheffield, but drug offences soar by 40%

Crime in Sheffield has fallen over the last year, official police records reveal, but the number of drug offences has soared.

By Alex Ross, data reporter
Friday, 23rd July 2021, 2:58 pm

South Yorkshire Police recorded 49,544 offences in Sheffield in the 12 months to March, according to the Office for National Statistics.

That was a decrease of 14% compared to the previous year, when there were 57,665.

At 84.7 crimes per 1,000 people, that was higher than the rate across England and Wales, which stood at 77.6.

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Crime in Sheffield has fallen overall but the number of drug offences being recorded has risen sharply

The biggest reduction was in thefts, which fell by a third, with 15,052 offences recorded.

Drug crime was up by 40%, with 2,044 offences recorded.

Other crimes recorded in Sheffield included:

1,230 sexual offences, a decrease of 18%

16,794 violent offences, a decrease of 4%

5,843 incidents of criminal damage and arson, down 7%

672 possession of weapons such as firearms or knives, down 10%

5,802 public order offences, up 2%

6,758 stalking and harassment offences, up 7%.

Overall, police recorded 13% fewer crimes, excluding fraud, across England and Wales, with around 4.6 million offences in the year to March.

Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, said it was important to consider when comparing the figures with previous years what impact the pandemic has had on crime rates.

He also told how the rise in drug offences being recorded may be a sign that the force’s proactive work to disrupt and tackle gang-related crime is ‘bearing fruit’, with more crime being detected and more offenders prosecuted.

The ONS said the annual drop was helped by a "substantial" fall in crime during April last year, when the first lockdown restrictions were introduced.

The number of recorded crimes increased between July and September, it added, before decreasing again as lockdown measures were imposed toward the end of last year.

However, in March this year, recorded crime was higher than the previous year as the phased exit from lockdown started.

Billy Gazard, from the ONS Centre for Crime and Justice, said: “The coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on patterns of crime.

"There were large decreases in theft offences, such as domestic burglary and theft from the person, as more people stayed at home and limited their social contact."

But the figures did show a 28% increase in stalking and harassment offences across England and Wales in the year ending in March, compared to the previous year.

This was driven by an increase in cyber stalking cases during the pandemic, according to the Suzy Lamplugh Trust.

The trust, which was set up to support victims of stalking following the disappearance of Suzy in 1986, said it had seen a rise in calls to its helpline since March last year.

Violet Alvarez, spokesperson from the trust, said: "We know that domestic abuse has risen drastically during the pandemic, and this is evident in the rise of ex-intimate partner stalking cases that we have seen on the helpline."

She said specialist training across police forces and courts was needed to ensure victims were adequately cared for and understood.

Across South Yorkshire, theft was down 32%, robbery fell by 24% and knife crime reduced by 19%, but drug offences rose by 26%.

Dr Billings said: “The fall overall in many types of crime last year (April 2020 – March 2021) is very welcome, but we have to be careful comparing these figures with other years since this year was unusual due to the pandemic.

“I particularly welcome the fall in those crimes that people tell me they are most worried about – such as residential burglaries (-25%), sexual offences (-15%) and knife crime (-19%).

“However, there are two notable exceptions – the rise in drug offences (26%) and stalking and harassment (10%) and we will need a greater focus here going forward.

“The increase in drug offences may, however, not be all that it seems. It tells us that the extensive proactive work being undertaken by South Yorkshire Police to disrupt and tackle gang-related crime is bearing fruit. More crimes are being detected and more people are being prosecuted, and in many cases they are receiving lengthy prison sentences.

“In order to prevent these crimes I have invested funds into work that supports drug rehabilitation and prevention. We continue to work with partners to get people off drugs and we need to work with schools to ensure young people understand the risks.

“I am also concerned by the rise in forms of psychological violence – stalking, harassment – which often takes place online. Increasingly the police are having to keep us safe on the internet as well as the streets.

“Over the last couple of years I have been able to increase investment in South Yorkshire Police significantly for them to tackle crime.

“The ongoing recruitment of police officers is providing improvement across all areas, but significantly in our neighbourhood policing teams.”

Assistant Chief Constable Sarah Poolman said: "Over the past 12 months, the crime figures for South Yorkshire have understandably been impacted by the outbreak of Covid-19 and the subsequent restrictions.

"As members of the public have continued to adhere to restrictions, we have seen a reduction in offending, not only in South Yorkshire, but across England and Wales.

"This reduction in demand has provided an opportunity to focus on proactive policing, while increasing patrols in our communities.

"I'm proud to see that this proactive ethos has culminated in an increase in efforts to disrupt organised crime gangs and take drugs off our streets. The increase in reported drug offences is testament to the hard work of our officers, who continue to tackle drug distribution across our county. In doing so, they are taking money out of the hands of drug dealers and protecting the vulnerable people who are often exploited by them.

"As life continues to change in these unprecedented times, we will continue to prioritise the safety of the public, working closely with partners and local businesses as we face these challenges together."