South Yorkshire Police in 'relentless pursuit' of gunmen wreaking havoc and causing terror on streets of Sheffield

Gun crime in Sheffield is being treated as an ‘absolute priority’, with officers involved in a ‘relentless pursuit’ of those causing terror on the city’s streets, according to South Yorkshire’s Chief Constable.

Friday, 12th March 2021, 12:34 pm

The police chief – Stephen Watson – has stressed the importance his officers place upon ridding the streets of firearms and disrupting the activities of crime gangs often involved in shootings.

Chf Con Watson admitted there was an increase in gun attacks in Sheffield last year and that although the vast majority of shootings are usually ‘targeted’ at individuals, offenders put lives at risk every time they open fire.

He said gunmen with a poor aim can hit innocent bystanders in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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The scene of a shooting on Grimesthorpe Road South, Burngreave, last year, where a man was killed
The scene of a shooting on Grimesthorpe Road South, Burngreave, last year, where a man was killed

In January 2020, a 12-year-old was injured in a drive-by shooting on the Arbourthorne estate when a gunman looking for rival gang members fired indiscriminately in the street from a moving car.

Another child was nearly killed in the shooting, with a bullet missing his head and neck by just centimetres.

Stephen Dunford, 27, of Fellbrigg Road, Arbourthorne, was jailed for life and ordered to serve a minimum of 19 years behind bars, over the shooting.

He was found guilty of attempted murder and possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life.

Chief Constable Stephen Watson

Chf Con Watson said: “You will have heard the term ‘targeted attack’ all too often as we saw a significant increase in the number of shootings across Sheffield in 2020. This phrase is intended to make you, the innocent bystander, feel reassured that the shooting was not at random.

“However, I must be clear; the gunmen, sometimes boys, we are dealing with are not trained marksmen. The intended target is not always the victim. Never have we felt this more than the moment a 12-year-old boy was shot in a drive-by shooting in Arbourthorne in last year.

“The attack was targeted but the gunman had a poor aim, was in a moving vehicle and had little to no understanding of how such a firearm would react when the trigger is pulled.

“Some firearms, depending on the type, can cause the ‘shot’ to arch or ricochet off street furniture whilst others will travel great distances sometimes through the intended victim on to others.

Police officers in Arbourthorne after a 12-year-old boy was shot last year

“The risk is very real and it is faced all too frequently on our streets.”

Chf Con Watson said a three new proactive investigation teams for Sheffield and a specialist armed crime team have been set up to help rid the streets of weapons, investigate offences and dismantle gangs involved in gun crime.

He said tackling the supply of drugs is also key to reducing gun crime, with both often linked.

The police chief said: “South Yorkshire Police will always treat gun crime as an absolute priority.

Stephen Dunford was jailed for life and ordered to serve a minimum of 19 years behind bars for attempted murder

“We have invested heavily in our relentless pursuit of those involved. This includes the introduction of three proactive investigation teams for the city and the new armed crime team.

“My challenge to these dedicated teams is clear – I want maximum disruption of the drug supply chain, and a hostile environment for organised crime gangs.

“I want those responsible put before the courts and for detailed evidence of the dreadful impact this type of criminality has on our communities to be placed before Her Majesty’s judges. The sentences we have seen over recent months, demonstrates that this is being delivered.”

He praised the public for support offered to South Yorkshire Police in the wake of shootings and for passing on information about those who walk the street armed.

Chf Con Watson added: “We see you, the public, now more willing than ever to pass on information about those who carry, hide and use firearms.

“The number of reports we have received over the last year has increased considerably. This is the real trick. This expedites the work of the investigation teams who can use this intelligence to gather evidence. The evidence is used to obtain a warrant, which leads to a search, which leads to more evidence, an arrest, charge and conviction. This is how criminal networks are broken.”

The scene of a shooting in Sheffield last May

He warned that shootings often result in retaliation attacks, with those involved opting against involving the authorities.

“Those involved often refuse to co-operate with the police instead choosing their own form of retaliation and so it goes on,” them police chief said.

“Without the intelligence passed from communities, our relentless pursuit would be longer, slower, all the while seeing more victims and more retaliations.”

Last year police officers recovered 66 guns in South Yorkshire.

Chf Con Watson said: “Each one of those firearms was intended for criminal activity, that is at least 66 victims saved from looking down the barrel of a gun.

“This is only possible because the public share our view that this is an offence which must be dealt with robustly.

“Much of the intelligence received is passed on anonymously through Crimestoppers, so I cannot directly thank those who took action to help save lives. But, my thanks is nothing in comparison to knowing that you helped save a life.”

Anyone with information about drug supply, gang behaviour or the use of firearms should call South Yorkshire Police on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

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In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a digital subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.

A man was critically injured when he was shot in his chest in Burngreave, Sheffield last April