London Road business owners stand up for street's reputation after gang violence fears
Fears about street violence and drug dealing has thrust Sheffield's busy London Road into the headlines as police consider new powers to tackle gang activity in the area.
But while the many business owners on the bustling road say they would welcome moves to make the area safer, they rarely – if ever – see trouble occurring themselves.
It comes after the police said they were considering using new legislation called a Public Space Protection Order to crackdown on gangs gathering in the area following reports of stabbings, gun violence and drug dealing, as well as a mass brawl involving up to 100 people at a privately-booked party in a restaurant in which glasses were thrown and a knife allegedly brandished.
But Andrew Wilkinson, owner of The Cutting Crew barbers’ shop, said while he was not opposed to the protection order being introduced, he actually believes the area has been getting better in recent years.
He said: “I heard about the brawl but me personally I haven’t seen anything.
“I’ve been in this shop since the 1960s and London Road has been a nice community that to be fair has in my opinion been improving.
“You see hoodies in groups around but a hoodie doesn’t make you bad. But if this protection order will make the area safer it can’t be a bad idea.”
Abdul Khalid, from the E-Net computer store, said he has not witnessed any problems in the area during the daytime or at night.
“I haven’t seen anything gang-related,” he said.
“Everyone I see here seems to be okay especially during the day while I am at work.
“Even sometimes when I come here in the evening for food you see the groups standing around sometimes but I never seen any trouble.”
Naim Allam, from the Amigos Mexican Kitchen restaurant, agreed there has been limited trouble.
“I haven’t seen any violence around here, I’ve worked here for three years and I haven’t seen anyone fighting or trying to cause a fight.
“I think the order the council are talking about would still be a good idea as groups of kids do gather so it can’t hurt if there is a gang problem.”
But one resident who lived in the area and asked not to be named, said they had witnessed occasional fights on back streets connected to London Road.
But he added: “I haven’t seen any big gang fights.”
Problems on London Road were discussed at a public meeting earlier this week as police officers and council officials took part in a licensing hearing to discuss the future of the Turkuaz restaurant, which was where the 100-person brawl occurred in March at a privately-booked party.
The restaurant was subsequently turned into a club called the Yankee Lounge without the official permission of the authorities. That bar has now closed and is moving to the city centre, while the building is to become a restaurant again, coming back as a second city branch of Viva Tequila, an Italian-Mexican restaurant that already operates in Gleadless.
Cheryl Topham, from South Yorkshire Police’s licensing team, said she was ‘more than happy’ with how the premises was run as a restaurant and the police had no previous problems with the venue prior to the March incident.
But she said that due to ongoing crime and disorder issues in the London Road area, she considered it to be the ‘wrong place’ to open a nightclub.
Michelle Hazlewood, representing owner Huseyin Esendemir, said he had experienced almost no trouble before.
“In eight years, he has called the police twice – once being the March event,” she said.
Star reader Michael Vickers said concerns about crime on London Road should be put into proportion.
He said: “I regularly shop in London Road and occasionally go for meals and drinks in the evening. I’ve never seen any problems.
“I love the diversity of culture in the area, especially all the Chinese family diners at the many Chinese restaurants on Sunday.
“I’m a Sheffielder born and bred and brought up on Parson Cross so no stranger to what some may think of as a rough area.
“My mum always said she would never live in fear after repeated break-ins at her home. Some good old fashioned community policing, find and punish those responsible but don’t trash the area and all the good people in one swipe.”