OPINION: 'Knife crime remains an issue, but we are making progress', says South Yorkshire's police and crime commissioner

A few weeks ago I was re-elected Police and Crime Commissioner for a third time.

I have since taken an oath of office to act on behalf of all people without fear or favour, however they voted and wherever they live.

This is what I shall try to do.

What struck me most forcefully as I went around the different communities during the election – whether through video conferences or actual door-knocking – was the difference between perception and reality when it came to crime.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Dr Alan Billings.

Too many people were convinced that crime was going up. That was the perception. The reality was rather different.

We recently had the crime statistics for last year. They showed that in 2020 crime overall fell in South Yorkshire – by about eight percent. Some crimes fell quite dramatically – including burglaries and theft by over 20 percent.

Of course, none of these figures are of any comfort if you have just been burgled or your car broken into.And as with most crime figures, we have to be careful about taking one year’s statistics in isolation.

Last year was, after all, a pretty strange year: we spent large parts of it shut up in our homes – and that applied to thieves and robbers as well.Nevertheless, crime did fall – and that included knife crime. Knife crime fell by 12 percent.

And this is where the difference between perception and reality starts to matter. If our perception of knife crime is that it is going up, we start to worry.

We wonder whether the police are able to get a grip on the situation.

Inevitably, a single incident of knife crime, especially if there is a fatality, makes for big headlines in the news. Families are devastated and we feel disturbed.

But we need our feelings to be tempered by reality as well as perception, and last year knife crime fell.

No doubt this was in part due to the lock-downs, as with those other crimes.

But the police were also very active during that time, cracking down on many known to carry weapons, and many involved in gangs.

An Armed Crime Team was set up. There were arrests, prosecutions and a lot of disruptive activity.

In addition, I gave many grants to groups working with young people to keep them away from crime.

Even more is being done through the Violence Reduction Unit, which I chair.Knife crime remains an issue, but the facts are telling us that we are making progress.

Dr Alan Billings, Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire