Police know of 128 organised crime gangs in South Yorkshire but less than half of those are thought to be active at present, the force has revealed as it increases pressure on those responsible for professional offending in the county.
Almost two thirds of the total of organised crime in the county surrounds the supply of drugs, though only a tiny fraction of those involved are engaged in international trafficking, with organised acquisitive crime – where offenders steal goods on a professional basis – and financial crime making up the bulk of the remainder.
Supplying firearms, highly topical at present following a number of shootings in Sheffield, accounts for five per cent of the county’s organised crime, with child sexual abuse and organised immigration also featuring on the list.
However, police insist they are making positive progress against those who make careers out of crime, with officers acting 127 times in the last six months to disrupt those involved.
That work has seen some people jailed, which partly accounts for the difference between known organised crime gangs and those which are active, 29 criminally held guns recovered and networks in both Sheffield and Doncaster set up to traffick victims into the area from eastern Europe for labour exploitation and benefit fraud broken up.
In Barnsley, a drugs gang ended up with a total of 42 years custody and in Doncaster two criminals found to be converting and supplying guns received a total of 28 years jailed.
Chief Constable Stephen Watson said police staff from across the force were now involved in work against organised criminals and said: “Some organised crime gangs we tackle with high end detectives and some, frankly, are a bit of a hanger on who need to be monitored and the people who need to deal with it are PCSOs.”
Neighbourhood policing, which has been re-introduced to the county after being scrapped several years ago, was “critical to counter terrormism, organised crime, serious offending”, he said.
“Traditionally, that would have been seen to be the work of specialist detectives. That is not the most effective way to do it,” he said.
The current spate of killings in South Yorkshire – which have left police dealing with an unprecedented eight live murder investigations has been a “real challenge”, Chief Supt James Abdy said.
However, the force was coping with the workload and he added: “What is re-assuring is the manner in which the force has come together.
“It is a real challenge, but people are rising to it,” he said.