Police chiefs have told Penistone residents – who make frequent complaints about the lack of enough officers in the district – that they are better served than other communities affected by worse crime problems.
South Yorkshire Police allocate neighbourhood officers on the basis of demand, with ‘response’ colleagues working across Barnsley to answer 999 emergencies as they emerge.
At present, Penistone’s neighbourhood team includes two constables, two community support officers and half of a sergeant’s time.
Teams working in other neighbourhoods are larger, but those areas have significantly higher crime problems than the Penistone district.
South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Dr Alan Billings, attended a public meeting called to address concerns about crime and policing within the community.
He told the audience: “When I look at Penistone I see relatively low anti-social behaviour and low crime.
“If I was looking for somewhere to live, this would be near the top of my list.
“When it comes to resource allocation, there is a formula and you are getting above and beyond that allocation.
“That is a good thing and hopefully we can go up, year on year.”
Dr Billings has said previously that communities’ perception of crime should not be dismissed when deciding on resourcing, something which appears to be echoed by the staffing level in the area.
Policing goes beyond neighbourhood teams, however, with CID and the reactive ‘response’ officers also in the area, alongside others who operate out of public sight.
Neighbourhood officers have been provided largely by reducing the size of response teams, on the basis that as work locally reduces demand for immediate police action, they will have less work to do.
Today’s response teams for Barnsley have an inspector, three sergeants and 30 constables, compared to four sergeants and 35 constables under the previous regime when there were no neighourhood officers in the county.
The Penistone district is similarly sized to the Dearne in population terms, but the rural area’s record on house burglary is around seven for every 100,000 residents, compared to 19 in the Dearne.
Drug offences, the source of many complaints in Penistone at present, register at less than one for every 100,000 residents, compared to 1.6 in the Dearne and 1.4 on average for Barnsley as a whole.
The farming community across the remote districts of Penistone have complained repeatedly over several years that police lack the geographical knowledge to even find their properties, with ambiguity about whether those close to the county border fall into West or South Yorkshire.
That has led to farmers taking their own action to patrol the district and warn each other of suspicious activity.