A campaign has been launched to get a full scale police neighbourhood team back into rural communities on the edge of the Pennines, days before the county’s police and crime commissioner is due to attend a public meeting to hear residents’ concerns about crime in the district.
The campaign follows an independent survey which suggests fear of crime in Penistone and surrounding, isolated, communities is much higher than the county average while confidence in South Yorkshire Police remains far below results from the force’s own research.
Neighbourhood policing was scrapped by the South Yorkshire force several years ago but has been re-introduced, with impressive results, by current Chief Constable Stephen Watson and has been shown to reduce emergency calls.
But the team which previously worked from Penistone police station was initially amalgamated with officers working from a base miles away at Kendray, in urban Barnsley.
Following local pressure, a constable and two PCSOs were later returned to the station but now a petition has been launched, asking that a full team is established there – which would repeat an expansion of the service which has seen a complete new team created to work from the police station in the former mining community of Cudworth.
Penistone West Councillor Dave Griffin has been conducting his own surveys on public attitudes towards crime and policing for the last three years, with the latest results suggest high levels of fear among those in the town and surrounding villages.
Now Coun Griffin is supporting Roy Bowser, who will stand as Labour’s candidate for the same ward in this May’s council elections, in raising a petition to request a full neighbourhood team.
The campaign has been launched days before Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings is due to attend a community meeting in Penistone, on Thursday evening, where residents have been voicing discontent for years about how criminals are able to operate easily in the area.
There are currently concerns that young people in the area are being targeted by drug dealers.
Coun Griffin’s survey suggests an increase in trust of police among those who answered his questions, compiled to try to reflect the force’s own survey work.
He said: “An obvious thing is low police visibility, if you live in Penistone and the villages which surround it you are likely to hardly ever see a bobby.
“Rural issues are quite different from urban ones. To improved trust and confidence we need a rural neighbourhood policing team based in Penistone, dedicated to rural matters,” he said.
South Yorkshire Police are now recruiting more officers than since before the financial crash more than a decade ago, with others freed up from ‘response’ duties answering 999 calls to take on preventative neighbourhood work.
Most of the new officers available through recruitment will be used to bolster the neighbourhood teams, which operate across the county.
The hope of campaigners is that some of those additional officers will be made available for the district.
Mr Bowser said there had been a strong reaction from residents wanting to add their names to his petition.
“People’s comments verify what Dave’s survey outlined, that they don’t feel safe.
“They have been talking about a spate of car break-ins since Christmas and people are saying all the time it used to be a lot better when we had local police.
“We have had quite a cross section of people, young and old, making comments and signing.”
*The community PACT police meeting takes place at Penistone Grammar School on Thursday February 7, from 7pm.