Fears over crime gangs recruiting young people in South Yorkshire during pandemic

Fears have been raised that young people could be more at risk of being recruited by crime gangs in South Yorkshire as youth unemployment rises during the pandemic.

Thursday, 11th February 2021, 10:15 am

South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Dr Alan Billings, has voiced his concerns that rising youth unemployment ‘could provide an opening for gang recruitment’.

He said: “Many young people are at a critical milestone in life – leaving school, college or university. They may leave without a job and find themselves for a period of time with little money. This can easily become a longer term and more deep-rooted issue as South Yorkshire is not a wealthy part of the country.

“Between 2010 and 2020, police budgets were cut and 20,000 officers were lost nationally, 500 of whom were in South Yorkshire. Organised crime groups took advantage of this and extended their operations, drawing in young people.

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Fears have been raised about crime gangs recruiting young people in South Yorkshire during the pandemic

“They started grooming young people for criminal purposes, targeting young males with no job and poor prospects, an easy target. The gangs befriended them and used them to transport drugs. It looked like easy money but it led to deeper involvement in the drugs market. Young people began to be used to extend the gangs’ activities out of the towns and city and across county lines.”

He said he fears this could be repeated again ‘if opportunities for young people continue to shrink’.

A recent South Yorkshire Police report revealed there are 19 known ‘organised grime groups’ operating in Sheffield and that since September 2020 almost 90 members and associates had been arrested.