New team to be launched in Sheffield in shake-up of policing

Insp Colette Fitzgibbons and Sgt Dave Cremin
Insp Colette Fitzgibbons and Sgt Dave Cremin

A new police team is gearing up for a move into a Sheffield suburb in the new year in a shake-up of policing.

Police chiefs want officers to find long-term solutions to issues in Sharrow by identifying the reasons behind them and working with partners to address them.

The Sheffield West Neighbourhood Policing Team is one of four covering the city and by January there will be 10 sub teams altogether working in specific communities.

Under the shake-up around 400 police officers will be moved from response teams, which normally answer 999 calls, into neighbourhood roles as 'problem solvers'.

An 11-strong team due to move into Sharrow in the new year is hopeful that Bonfire Night will pass without incident this year because of the amount of work already undertaken in and by the community to provide more opportunities for young people in a bid to keep them off the streets.

The area has suffered Bonfire Night problems in the past but police chiefs are hopeful that this year will be different and moving forward they want the new team to develop even more links with organisations based in and supporting the community.

The team also intends to concentrate on drug dealing in the area to prevent 'outside influences' affecting the progress that has been made with local youths.

Sergeant Dave Cremin said: "A lot of progress has already been made and Sharrow is a much different place from what it was on Bonfire Night two years ago with all the opportunities there now are for young people, for example.

"There are established partners working with us already and we are engaging with the community but this new team will really focus efforts.

"Linked to all our work around youths we will also be tackling drugs as this is an issue and we do not want external influences affecting the progress made so far and on which we want to build."

Another sub team will be moving into Gleadless Valley in the new year to focus on the main issues of concern in the community.

Off-road bikers, drugs and the theft of boilers from empty council houses are among the issues already identified by the team.

But officers will also be investing time in getting to know the community by attending public meetings, patrolling the streets and visiting groups and organisations on the estate.

Sgt Cremin said residents regularly complain that it is difficult to get hold of an officer.

"We want to change this. We want to work with existing groups as well as develop links with other organisations and local residents as information from the ground is key to understanding an area," he added.

Inspector Colette Fitzgibbons, who will manage the Sheffield West Neighbourhood Policing Team, said she wants officers and PCSOs to become well known in the communities they move into.

"We already have some active partners and links in place, which we will build on to develop networks which will help us engage with the community better than before to fully understand what the main issues are in the area," she added.

"We will be problem solving teams and want to work on key issues but we have to be honest with people and admit that we can't tackle everything at once, so we have to focus on issues with the most potential for risk and harm. We also want to help those who are most vulnerable in our communities."

She said the new policing teams will work closely with those in neighbouring communities to prevent problems in one area simply being moved elsewhere.

Ins Fitzgibbons added: "We want to be open with the communities we will be working in to make people aware of the work we have carried out because it is important that people giving us information see that it is being acted upon.

"The hope is that the more that people see us addressing what matters to them the more people will come forward and talk to us."

The new policing teams have been formed because of police chiefs fearing that the force is 'losing touch' with communities.

Chief Constable Stephen Watson and Police and Crime Commissioner, Alan Billings, have both said cuts to policing over the years, which led to a reduction in neighbourhood policing, had been detrimental.

At a public meeting last October, Dr Billings said the cuts had resulted in South Yorkshire Police ‘losing touch’ with communities.

He said: “Neighbourhood policing - local policing - was allowed to slip away last year. That got the police into a very bad place. They became out of touch with their communities.”

Chf Con Watson said at the time: “If neighbourhood policing is about anything it should be about putting communities on the front foot.

“We are too reactive and too busy responding to stuff. The only way to change that is to get upstream and stop little issues becoming big issues.

“If you have local bobbies who know local people, they do have a happy knack of getting upstream."