Sheffield’s recently introduced neighbourhood policing teams have been credited with helping to reduce the city’s problem with anti-social behaviour – even though it is acknowledged that more of the incidents which do occur are now getting reported to the authorities.
Coun Jim Steinke, the city council’s cabinet spokesman for community safety, has praised the work done by localised teams, who work from a series of ‘hubs’ to cover the city’s communities and provide a visible police presence which had previously been absent.
South Yorkshire Police decided to re-introduce neighbourhood officers after a decision to scrap the service on cost grounds – made by a previous regime – was recognised as a mistake and Sheffield’s officers became operational around a year ago.
Since then said Coun Steinke, who chairs the city’s Safer Communities board with police district commander Chief Supt Stuart Barton, numbers of anti-social behaviour complaints have fallen.
That success is heightened by the fact that it appears fewer incidents are now being left unreported, a change attributed to increased confidence in police now officers and PCSOs are seen as a regular fixture in the communities they serve.
Coun Steinke said the “downward trend” in anti social behaviour was shown in statistics made available to the board.
Although the new style of neighbourhood policing was done with fewer resources than the force had previously been able to use, “It has demonstrated success”, he said.
“I think the greater police presence has resulted in more people reporting anti social behaviour.
“That is perhaps an even better. It is not just a downward trend but more are potentially reported.”
Neighbourhood officers were working to try to keep young people away from getting involved in anti-social behaviour and the “gradation” which could lead them on to more serious offending and knife crime, he said.
Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings held a Public Accountability Board meeting days ago where the success of neighbourhood teams in Barnsley – where the scheme was first introduced – was highlighted, with the initial decision to switch some staff from ‘reactive’ work, answering 999 calls to the longer term problem-solving done in neighbourhoods was described as “a leap of faith”.
There it has been so successful in reducing the pressure on staff who deal with urgent incidents that more have been transferred onto neighbourhood work in a development Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts described as a “virtuous cycle”.
Coun Steinke would like to see Sheffield’s neighbourhood teams expand in a similar way, if circumstances allow, and said: “On the one hand you are trying to bust gangs at the same time as having people on the ground making communities feel safer and carrying out prevention work.
“It is about reassuring communities that we are working jointly, as a multi-agency, to stop people getting involved in anti social behaviour and knife crime in particular.
“I realise it is a gradation, how one turns into the other,” he said.
That was why police took a tough stance against anti social behaviour, to try to stop problems developing at the moment they were most easy to address.