A Star Readers’ Panel meeting between the newly-elected mayor and our readers, at Marmaduke's on Cambridge Street, heard of concerns over issues including knife crime, and violence on the city’s buses, as residents asked what he would do to deal with the problems.
Anthony Olaseinde, who has campaigned against violence, working with young people, said he wanted to see South Yorkshire doing more.
Anthony’s own work has included putting eight weapons amnesty bins out across South Yorkshire, which have helped take 500 weapons off the streets. He has also bought emergency bleed control kits which have been distributed to help potential knife crime victims.
He wants to work with others and create a joint plan, and said he thought Sheffield had a big problem.
He told Mr Coppard: “Something can be done – I do a lot of work around it, and see the difference in young people. My way of doing it is education. To understand, tell people my experiences. I was a bit naughty when I was younger. Violence was normal to me, growing up.
‘A life of crime seemed normal’
"A life of crime seemed normal. I thought that was the only option. But I hated it. I took myself to university, got a degree, got a masters. I got a job in IT, but didn’t like it, so I decided to take what I learned and try to teach other young people that you don’t have to take this route.
"In doing that I noticed a lot of young people were resorting to knife crime to resolve conflicts.
"I just think it’s important to get schools involved. I think it’s a mindset of people in general. I try to go to schools to educate them.”
He said he had been asked for 10 bleed kits to be put in schools in and around Sheffield. But he added: “How are you going to buy a bleed kit before you buy education for young people for them to learn?”
He feels education will save more lives than bleed kits, which stop people from bleeding to death.
Mr Coppard thanked him for his work.
He said: “There are a few things here. What is the root cause of these things happening, and why do people feel knife crime is the route in life to take?
"For me, it’s about opportunity, and it’s about hope. I was at a meeting in Manor Castle not long ago, and we invited some people from the community to come and talk to me as a mayoral candidate. Two mature women turned up. I asked why they were the only people there. They said everyone had just given up hope.
“If you’ve given up hope, and there is no route for you to find a better path, if there is no opportunity in your circle, if you don’t see a way out, knife crime, and having some status through carrying a knife in your position in your community, you’re a tough guy, that sort of stuff is your only route to feel like you’re someone important.
"What you’ve done, getting out there and getting an education, a career, a job and a life that is meaningful where you can see opportunity, is what it’s all about. It is the whole reason I got involved in this.
“It’s about making sure people have that opportunity.
No quick fix
“This isn’t a quick fix, but creating an economy in South Yorkshire where people feel that they have something in life, that they can go onto, that they feel they have a future ahead of them, that is the fundamental way of improving those people’s life chances, and making sure that hard up communities are the ones that get the help the most. Everyone in South Yorkshire wants to be better, but there are parts of the community that need the most help.”
Mr Coppard said he thought there was a need for an office of civic co-ordination to enable people like Anthony to link up with other organisations, like DESA, in Darnall, which work with youngsters to get them playing football together.
He said he planned to work with voluntary action groups to bring people together, and grow what they do.
Concerns over violence aboard Sheffield buses
Sheffield teenager Hajra Akbar said she was concerned about violence and abuse on buses. When it happened, drivers continued driving, she said.
Mr Coppard said his manifesto had said there would be zero tolerance of harassment on the buses.
"More broadly, the buses should be a safe space,” he added. “The public transport network should be somewhere you feel safe, no matter who you are , your background or what you look like.”
He said policing was run by the police commissioner’s office, but he would like to connect the police with the transport network in a more integrated way, so when things like that happened there was a better and quicker response.
"I feel bad for the drivers,” he said. “They should not be a security guard. They’re not bouncers, they’re there to drive people to and from a destination. Police need to be better integrated into what goes on on our transport network.
"Before that we need to work with schools to make sure that communities don’t feel that fighting and violence is the way to solve their problems. It’s not an easy fix.
“We need to make sure communities have more opportunities, jobs and hope.”