Shootings, stabbings and a dog shot to death: How police are battling crime on one Sheffield street

Police tape has become a familiar sight in one Sheffield suburb that has been plagued with gun crime and other criminality – so community police officers are now interacting with residents to put a sting in criminal activity and make the area safer to live in.

By Kian Rains
Monday, 28th September 2020, 10:41 am
South Yorkshire Police walkabout around Sharrow. Pictured are Neighbourhood inspector Louise Kent, PCSO Sarah Hague, and PCSO Simon Griffiths. Picture: Chris Etchells
South Yorkshire Police walkabout around Sharrow. Pictured are Neighbourhood inspector Louise Kent, PCSO Sarah Hague, and PCSO Simon Griffiths. Picture: Chris Etchells

In recent months, there has been a spate of shootings and violent attacks in the Sharrow and Abbeydale areas of Sheffield, which police believe are targeted attacks by rival gang members.

A 24-year-old was left with severe injuries after being shot close to Mount Pleasant Park on Abbeydale Road this month, and a man was also shot in the foot on nearby Harwell Road a few weeks earlier.

A dog was also shot on Abbeydale Road in July in one of three incidents that occurred in the space of 24 hours.

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PCSO Sarah Hague speaks to a local resident during the South Yorkshire Police walkabout around Sharrow. Picture: Chris Etchells

Other shootings involved rival groups opening fire at each other on Machon Bank, Nether Edge, and a house window was shot in nearby Union Street.

Following the attacks, Neighbourhood officers in Nether Edge were joined by specialist teams from across the force to conduct high visibility patrols aimed at disrupting suspected criminal activity.

Officers in the area are trying to end criminality before it escalates to a more extensive level - using the stop and search tactics to remove weapons and dangerous substances.

They heavily rely on people in the community to supply them with vital information that could lead to a ‘bigger picture’.

Neighbourhood inspector Louise Kent said: “We look at disruption tactics and if we go back to basics it’s about communities giving us information.

“Stop and search and the fact that we have got officers here a lot of the time, really does push that criminality away.

“I would appeal to members of the public to tell us when something is not quite right because that piece of information may just fit together into a bigger picture that allows us to take action such as obtaining a warrant for a search, so it’s that sort of activity that we’re doing to disrupt.”

She added: “One of the biggest challenges for us is getting people to speak to us and building that trust and confidence for people to give us information and to know that they’re safe if they tell us the information.

“This is not about being a police informant, it's about being the eyes and ears really because we cannot be there all the time.

“We want people to feel safe in passing information, so one of the things we do is actively promote the use of crime stoppers as an anonymous way of reporting things because some of the people with the most information are actually families or associates of people involved in criminality, now that obviously presents a lot of challenges around people reporting things to us.

“When we do get information that is not anonymous we sanitise that information so that we do not reveal the source.”

As well as looking out for anything untoward, PCSOs conduct land searches to look for weapons and illicit goods that might have been stored in edgings or hedges away from sight.

Typical items seized from operations include a combination of drugs, weapons and cash, according to Louise.

Despite violence in the area, Nether Edge and Sharrow councillor, Jim Steinke, believes that it is still a great place to live.

Cllr Steinke said: “It’s a great place to live, but we need to assist the police in terms of responding to this and very much get people to give information about crime.

“That’s really difficult because it might be your family, your friends, your neighbours but I think unless people are prepared to open up you’re not going to get the arrests.

“It’s regressive in lots of ways because you’ve got some young people going into the criminal justice system who may have seen the error in their ways at some future date but by that time they have already got a criminal record, etc.

“I’m not condoning what they do, but it’s really important that we stop both the crime happening and also young kids getting involved with it.

“The key to all this is early intervention and that’s in schools to kind of get the issues talked about.

“It’s also where things are going wrong at home that we can pick things up quite quickly and offer support to parents.”

He added: “I’ve lived here most of my life and I think that crime has come and gone.

“There is a particular issue at the moment because there seems to be a lot of firearms around, and we need to try and get those guns out of circulation as soon as possible.”

Police Community Support Officers are now trying to target the roots of crime by intervening at critical moments in a young person's life — preventing a further spread of violence on our streets.

Neighbourhood inspector Louise is currently in contact with headteachers at schools in the suburb to organise interventions that will educate children and ‘steer them away’ from a life of crime.

Louise said: “I’m conscious that a lot of the children that attend these schools are connected with some of the families involved in criminality.

It’s everybody’s responsibility including partners, Social care, violence reduction units, education, police, to try and support those children and steer them away from criminality.”

Abbeydale PCSO, Sarah Hague who has worked in the area for 14 years, said: “The youngsters now have not really got any clear role models, so the role models they are looking at are unfortunately drug dealers and things like that.

“They’re aspiring to be them, and we need to give them positive role models to get them away from crime because at the end of the day we will do warrants on your addresses, we will obviously arrest you, and unfortunately sometimes you will end up going to prison.”