Page Hall: 70 arrests, 250 cars seized and 600 fines in year on Sheffield estate
Flashing blue lights were illuminating the corner of Beretta Street, in Page Hall, Sheffield.
A police van and a patrol car had both stopped on the corner as they dealt with a motorist on the street, off Page Hall Road.
Meanwhile, another patrol car passed the end of the street, while residents and visitors to the main road’s shops went about their daily business. A few watched from across the street.
That was the scene on Wednesday afternoon, around 12.30pm, on an estate where police have gone out of their way to increase their presence over the last year
Page Hall had acquired an unwanted reputation for antisocial behaviour – and the increased presence visible that afternoon is not as much as some residents and businesses would like.
A year ago, a specialist neighbourhood policing team was set up for the estate, made up of Sgt Tony Cartlidge and four PCs. A number of trainee officers are also involved.
Police House on Robey Street
Now they have also introduced a police base on the estate, at the end of Robey Street. It is a council house, which was not occupied, and now opens each Wednesday, and on other days when officers are available to drop in. Officers meet visitors in the front room, with a sign outside the front door
It is not open every day – but officers say it has encouraged people to come in to speak to them.
Sgt Cartlidge said he knew there was still work to do – but felt his team had started to make a difference.
Much of the work has revolved around cracking down on a problem which had haunted the estate – nuisance motorists.
Since last October, they have seized 250 cars for a series of offences such as no insurance or no driving licence. Over 600 fines have been issued for offences including erratic driving, bald tyres and not using seat belts. They have also made over 70 arrests.
Drug dealing and cannabis cultivation
He said: “Now we have got rid of the initial problem, other problems are starting to come through. like antisocial behaviour of residents, and a little bit of drug dealing. Now we are focusing on those.
"Criminality in Page Hall is actually very low compared to most places in Sheffield – assaults, burglary and thefts are all low. Non-family assaults are few and far between. If you walk through Page Hall at 1am you’re as safe as anywhere else in the city."
He said when his team first arrived in the community, the Roma Slovak community were suspicious of them. But over the last year, they have built up trust, to the point that members of that community now come to speak to them. He said that was unheard of previously.
"They know we’re here for them, not to victimise them,” he said. "They see us as part of the community now. We are robust, but that is with the whole of the community, not just them.”
Historically there had been concerns over large gatherings of the Roma Slovak community, which had been interpreted as large scale disorder. But Sgt Cartlidge said that was usually a couple of people having a disagreement, being surrounded by people filming or watching what was happening.
"Reports of mass disorder were false,” he said. “And there have been no incidents of mass disorder this year.”
"People might walk round and see nine or 10 men on a street corner playing cards. But that is a cultural thing, where some others may go for a pint or a coffee.”
He is aware of concerns about drug dealing, and that there have been cannabis cultivations, believed to be linked to Albanian organised crime groups, who are not part of the community. Covert and overt operations are being run to deal with these.
Complaints of antisocial behaviour on Wensley estate
Some of his officers are currently working on solving problems around the Wensley estate, where complaints of antisocial behaviour have continued.
Pc Dan Smith and Pc Jo Lewis have been closely involved in the work, which has seen an increase in patrols in the area.
They believe there is an element of a clash of cultures, with complaints revolving around cars and noise. Sometimes they are called to complaints about people in cars, but arrive to find no offence is being committed, they said.
But PC Smith said: "The extra patrols are having an effect.”
People on Page Hall Road were split in their views.
One, who declined to be named, said he thought things had improved in the last 12 months. He said he used to see fighting, but that had stopped.
A businessman, who also declined to be named, felt it had made little difference.
"They need to understand the mess that some of the people end up making,” he said. “There are fights, but they are between themselves.”
Flytipping, fireworks and 3am music
Resident Nasar Raoof said he thought officers had seen some good results in terms of drug raids and stopping cars, but there were still problems that needed to be sorted out.
He said there was an issue with thefts of catalytic converters.
"Antisocial behaviour and drug dealing is still an issue," he added.
"Antisocial behaviour has never gone away. I think it’s less than a year since there was CCTV footage going around showing big groups and a fight.
"We’re finding that the police house is there but they haven’t got the numbers to man it all the time. We are finding people are being pulled away if there is something happening elsewhere.
"We are still seeing groups blasting music until 3am, and fireworks at midnight. A year on has it changed anyone’s life? I’d say no. Fly tipping and litter has not gone away.”
But he agreed officers had made an impact on the cars which had been driving through the area, with fewer vehicles racing through the estate's streets.