'Arbourthorne is resilient and will bounce back' - Community reacts to shock shooting of 12-year-old boy
The community in Arbourthorne has been left shaken and shocked by the shooting of a child in broad daylight, and has led to some residents feeling too fearful to step outside their front door.
As I walk along Arbourthorne in the wake of an incident that left a 12-year-old boy with a gun shot to the leg, an ‘army’ of police cars patrol the streets around the estate.
Residents expressed anger and upset on the streets and have said "enough is enough".
One local on his way to the shop near where the incident happened in Northern Avenue on Sunday afternoon said people in the area had become ‘too busy hating each other to look at the bigger picture’.
Some who work to look after the community - such as local councillor Ben Miskell - have been out in the cold trying to bring people back together.
Coun Miskell was handing out leaflets for a public meeting next week which has been organised by residents with help from him and Louise Haigh, MP for Heeley, as a way to unite residents and talk about a way forward.
He said: "I was saddened on Sunday but in a way I wasn’t surprised because we’d seen over the past month a spike in gun incidents that people have been reporting and it was inevitable that someone was going to be caught in the crossfire of that.
“It’s really not acceptable. People here are saying that they’ve got a right to be able to go to the shop, walk their dog, see their relatives and go about their ordinary life without fearing being gunned down or something bad happening to them.
"I think the mood is kind of bewilderment really that these things continue to happen on the estate. We’ve seen the the deprioritization policing with austerity and cuts over recent years and it’s really hit some of the most vulnerable people the hardest."
South Yorkshire Police has dealt with eight shootings in the county in just eight days - the equivalent of one every 24 hours.
Kurt Beckett has been a police community support officer in Arbourthorne for 14 years and has been out around the area trying to reassure people.
“Arbourthorne is a lovely community, there are some nice people who live here,” he said. “Like any community it’s tidal - it goes up and down. It has its problems and high points, we’ve had some good events here and some incidents that have caused concern.
“The community is always resilient, they will always bounce back and rally together and look after each other and we’re there to support them.
“We go to local community meetings and speak to people and they come through. As a rule most areas are full of good people and this is no different.”
Coun Paul Wood, cabinet member for safety at Sheffield Council, said authorities - including police - had seen a significant reduction in funding and staff which had made it more difficult to tackle crime.
He added the role of PCSOs and community groups was vital for gathering information and preventing crime and said they needed more investment.
Officer Beckett said: “It’s the ground floor - people talk to us because they know us and get to see us every day so they trust us and talk to us. That’s how we gather information and something insignificant might grow into something a lot more important.
“Things have changed, we were a lot bigger team when we started but we do what we can with what we got.”
Police made two arrests in connection with the attack on Sunday and are continuing with investigations.
Residents said the increased police presence following the attack was reassuring but felt they had been ignored in the past.
Eric Whitehead, an elderly local resident, said: “If the police keep getting resources taken away from them what can they do? If they get lots of funding taken off them something’s going to go wrong.
“It’s a different generation to what it used to be. Today it’s like the government’s not bothered.
“In my day people respected the law, some of these today feel like they’re better off in prison than what they are out.
“The community should come together and take responsibility for these things but they won’t because they’re frightened of the reprisals that come from it.
“And you can bang on the drum about change but nothing seems to get done. It’s still exactly the same. The authorities don’t listen.”
The boy who was shot was taken to hospital following the incident and is expected to make a full recovery.
In its wake, police and the council are working to develop long-term plans to tackle the rise in violent crime in the area.
Coun Miskell, who also teaches in Sheffield, said: "I think we need to see a reinvestment in youth services across the city and agencies and communities working together better, also looking at some of the root causes.
“Some of the root causes are about poverty, a lack of opportunities that drive people to get involved in gangs and do drugs which creates such a tragedy for areas like Arbourthorne.
“We’ve heard from the community that enough is enough, people are united that this activity has to stop. People need to feel reassured to report to the police."
The public meeting will take place on Wednesday 22 January at Arbourthorne Community Centre, Edenhall Road, from 5pm to 7pm.
Anyone with information about the shooting is urged to contact 101 quoting incident number 516 of January 12, 2020.