Sheffield is still safest city

Assistant Chief Constable Andy Holt outside South Yorkshire Police HQ, in Sheffield.
Assistant Chief Constable Andy Holt outside South Yorkshire Police HQ, in Sheffield.
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Sex offences have rocketed by more than a quarter in South Yorkshire in a year – with police chiefs putting the rise down to the ‘Jimmy Savile effect’.

The new national figures show South Yorkshire has the fifth highest general crime rate in the country.

There were 69 offences recorded in the force area per 1,000 residents last year, a figure only higher in Humberside, Cleveland, West Yorkshire and London.

Greater Manchester Police recorded 66 crimes per 1,000 residents, while in the West Midlands, which serves Birmingham, the rate was 63.

The Office of National Statistics data showed sexual offences went up 26 per cent.

The police and Sheffield’s Rape Crisis centre manager said more people were coming forward due to the ‘Jimmy Savile effect’ and a spate of other high-profile sex cases.

The total number of crimes dropped by 3,117, or 3 per cent, to 93,209 between October 2012 and September 2013.

Deputy Chief Constable Andy Holt, of South Yorkshire Police, said Sheffield was still one of the safest cities in the country.

He said: “We are as disappointed as anyone the rate of crimes per 1,000 people in South Yorkshire is a challenging picture.

“That figure does cover all crime.

“The comments about Sheffield being a safe city relate to violent crime, which is lower here compared to other core cities.

“Those comments – not just from the police, but also other authorities such as the council – remain valid.

“Up until September there was a drop of three per cent - that is very much to be welcomed. Within that a number of crime categories went down.”

Mr Holt said the rise in sexual offences could also be down to the force’s focused work to tackle child sexual exploitation.

He said: “I think we would find there is a Savile effect.

“One of the things about that dreadful case is that it has given victims the confidence to come forward and report sexual offences.

He said the force’s police and crime commissioner, had put a huge amount of resources into child sexual exploitation.

Meera Kulkarni from the Sheffield Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre, said they had seen a ‘significant increase’ in calls to their helpline following media coverage about Jimmy Savile and Coronation Street star Michael Le Vell - cleared of sex offences last year.

“I would say the majority of calls are to do with historic abuse and it’s across all ages,” she said.

“We have taken calls from women aged between 70 and 80 who have lived with the abuse they suffered as children. 
“The media coverage makes them realise it’s not their fault.”

The crime figures showed robbery rose 27 per cent and violent crime was up 1 per cent in South Yorkshire.

Thefts fell 1 per cent, drugs offences, theft of motor vehicles and possession of weapons were down 11 per cent, while criminal damage and arson fell by 9 per cent.

Mr Holt said reductions in burglary and vehicle crime were among the ‘best in the country’ but residents could help by locking their vehicles.