'˜We will not tolerate this' - Sheffield community unites against drug crime in the thriving Abbeydale corridor

It's a suburb of two halves.

Saturday, 4th June 2016, 7:21 am
Updated Saturday, 4th June 2016, 9:48 pm
Abbeydale Road. Picture: Andrew Roe

Abbeydale Road has a cosmopolitan mix of trendy cafes, upmarket delis, quirky independent stores and a thriving antiques quarter. The road is undergoing a transformation into a booming, prosperous shopping and eating out street.

But scratch the surface and something more sinister is laid bare.

Abbeydale Road. Picture: Andrew Roe

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Drugs, guns, violence and anti-social behaviour are blighting the area '“ leading to a police crackdown.

Armed drug dealer Waqar Khan, arrested on Abbeydale Road, has just been locked up for seven years.

Police have also revealed they seized cocaine, cannabis, a gun and cash from two men after stopping their car in the area.

And cash was seized from a suspected drug dealer after a police chase through Sheffield, a knife confiscated from a man searched in the street and drugs found on another man.

Abbeydale Road. Picture: Andrew Roe

Criminals and drug dealers blighting a thriving Sheffield shopping street have been told: 'We will not tolerate this.'

Police today said they have been '˜dedicating a significant number of resources' in the Abbeydale and Sharrow area to tackle street crime and drug dealing.

Coun Nasima Akther, and other Nether Edge and Sharrow councillors, have welcomed the police action.

She said: 'The community has come together and said '˜we will not tolerate this'.

Four Corners café owners Roy Pemberton (left) and Christopher Smith

'It's people going about their everyday lives that suffer by these sorts of crimes with drugs and with violence.

'But people have taken responsibility in some cases and had the confidence to step forward to police and say '˜this is wrong'.

'People can stand up to anti-social behaviour but there's a limit when it's regarding drugs, assaults and knife crime. Everybody has had enough of this.

'The message I'd say to young people is please do not get involved in drugs. It ruins your future and puts other people at risk as well.

Abbeydale Picture House

'It got to a point in time with everything going on that this was getting out of hand.

'The police told us that they would crack down and it's good they are doing that. They've done a great job and we'll continue to offer our support. It's a real team effort from everyone in the area working together.'

Drug dealer Waqar Khan, aged 25, of Glover Road, Lowfield, has been jailed seven years after being found with bags of cannabis in a car stopped by officers on Abbeydale Road.

A gun and cocaine were later found during a search of a car outside his house.

Inspector Ian Stubbs, of the Sheffield South West Local Policing Team, said the seven-year prison sentence for possessing drugs with intent to supply and possessing a firearm, was a '˜significant result for the local community' and should serve as a '˜warning' to others involved in dealing.

He said drug dealing and associated criminality had become major problems in Abbeydale and Sharrow over recent months '“ taking over from groups of youths involved in anti-social behaviour, which used to plague the area.

Dronfield Antiques on Abbeydale Road

Insp Stubbs said: 'We have been dedicating a significant number of resources into the Sharrow and Abbeydale area to tackle the ongoing issues, particularly street crime and drug dealing.

'What we have seen over the last six to seven months is an increase in street crime and drug dealing '“ more organised gang culture activity, moving away from anti-social behaviour towards a more concerning increase in drug dealing.

'We have had some really good results, a lot of which is as a result of information passed by the community. If you have information about those involved in the supply of drugs then please let us know.

'We will continue to work hard to tackle issues in the community but we need your help. We need information about those involved, names, vehicles.

'I have a dedicated team working in the area at the moment and we will investigate all reports we receive.'

Howard Greaves has run his Dronfield Antiques store for 40 years and knows more than most about living and working on Abbeydale Road '“ and he feels the area is on the up.

'It's slowly becoming quite edgy and trendy these days,' he said.

'The creation of the Sheffield Antiques Quarter has really boosted the area. We get people coming from outside of Sheffield looking around.

'I like the area because I feel it gives Sheffield a different retail option. We have loads of different independent shops, something other parts of Sheffield don't have.

'I think the only chain store we have is a Pizza Hut and that says a lot.'

But another business owner who did not wished to be named was not as positive about the area. He said Abbeydale Road and the surrounding streets is '˜rife' with drug dealing.

He said: 'I've seen kids around 12 or 13 with big bundles of cash '“ drug dealing is quite blatant in the area. The police are clamping down more but it's hard to root it out. Drugs is one thing but we've also got boy racers in cars and on quad bikes along Abbeydale Road.

'It's a tragedy waiting to happen '“ all it needs is one child stepping out and getting killed.

'The area has got potential but it's got its problems.'

Four Corners cafe owners Christopher Smith and Roy Pemberton set up business in the Abbeydale Road area around eight months ago.

They were originally looking to move into Kelham Island but stumbled across the empty unit after Christopher went for a shave at the barber's next door.

They feel the area is up and coming and believe a better night-time trade could improve the atmosphere.

Christopher said: 'It was last summer with all this Top Corner Boyz gang stuff who hang around a bit further up the road. For me, it's nonsense I've never come across anything bad like that.

'The main reason people may feel a bit fearful at night is because there isn't a lot going off around here '“ nothing is really open at night.

'If more places were open at night with more restaurants then it would mean there would be more reasons for people to visit the area and it would improve the atmosphere.'

Co-owner Roy Pemberton, 27, said: 'The area does seem to be up and coming on this road '“ the rent is quite cheap and it only encourages businesses to set up here.

'It might have its problems below the surface but I don't think it's particularly bad on here.

'If you look at Kelham Island, the area used to be quite seedy and all that took is a few pubs and some cafes to open and look at it now, it's booming.'

Nursing student Cheryl Graham has lived on Abbeydale Road for around 12 months and also works shifts at a city centre hotel between her studies. She says the area is bustling with activity in the daytime but finds Abbeydale Road quite intimidating at night when she walks home from work.

'In the daytime it's really nice, especially at the weekend it's got a really good atmosphere with cafes and quirky shops. But at night I can find it quite intimidating especially when I come home from work.

'I often see large groups of teenagers hanging around and groups parked up in cars after midnight.

'You assume that drug dealing goes on in the area, that's the impression I get, but firearms is quite shocking. You don't expect anything like that.'

Nether Edge resident Judith Smith, who has lived on Empire Road near Abbeydale Road for 30 years, said: 'I feel quite safe here. I've had no trouble.

'I really like the area it's got a good range of shops and it's really near the city centre so I find it a convenient place to live.

Pauline Edmonds, who lives on nearby Kenwood Road, thinks anti-social behaviour in the area has decreased.

'I do think it's calmed down a lot,' said the 47-year-old mum.

'It really came to ahead when it got really lairy with the fireworks.

'I feel safer '“ you see a lot more of a police presence in the area.'

Nether Edge & Sharrow councillor Nasima Akther
Armed drug dealer Waqar Khan, arrested on Abbeydale Road, has just been locked up for seven years
Abbeydale Road. Picture: Andrew Roe
Abbeydale Road. Picture: Andrew Roe
Abbeydale Road. Picture: Andrew Roe
Four Corners café owners Roy Pemberton (left) and Christopher Smith
Abbeydale Picture House
Dronfield Antiques on Abbeydale Road
Nether Edge & Sharrow councillor Nasima Akther
Armed drug dealer Waqar Khan, arrested on Abbeydale Road, has just been locked up for seven years
Abbeydale Road. Picture: Andrew Roe