Tackling knife crime is key issue for Sheffield politicians

Pictured are South Yorkshire Police Chief Constable Stephen Watson, South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings and Coun Jim Steinke
Pictured are South Yorkshire Police Chief Constable Stephen Watson, South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings and Coun Jim Steinke

It is one of the crucial issues facing Sheffield right now – and politicians have put combating knife crime at the top of their agendas.

All the parties have suggested different solutions to tackling the problem ahead of May’s local elections.

Coun John Booker believes boxing clubs can help tackle crime

Coun John Booker believes boxing clubs can help tackle crime

It comes in the week that South Yorkshire Police join colleagues across the country in Operation Sceptre – a national scheme aimed at raising awareness of knife crime and its devastating effects.

South Yorkshire Police is one of seven forces which will share most of £100m extra funding to tackle knife crime. The money announced by Chancellor Philip Hammond is going to forces where serious violence is highest and where 70 percent of knife crime takes place.

Coun Jim Steinke, cabinet member for community safety, says knife crime is a “very complex issue”.

“There isn’t just one magic solution, there’s a whole range of smaller things that will cumulatively make a difference,” he said.

Coun Kaltum Rivers says young people need help to build mental resilience

Coun Kaltum Rivers says young people need help to build mental resilience

“Over recent years we have strengthened collaboration with the police, youth services and social care to work together to share information and plan joint actions to address the causes of organised crime.

“Positive activities and support for young people are being provided to help them avoid becoming involved in issues relating to organised crime. We recognise the important role that youth and community groups are playing to educate, inform and shape the lives of our young people.”

Coun Steinke says both poverty and exclusion from school lead to crime.

“Throughout the budget process Labour councillors have been clear – we need to make Sheffield a fairer city and direct maximum resources to reduce inequalities.

“The root causes of knife crime are linked to poverty and exclusion from education.

“The role that education plays in our schools is vitally important here. Our aim is to make sure that, through activities in school, all pupils in Year 7 and above have an awareness of knife crime and what can happen if they make the wrong decisions.

“There are also very clear links between exposure to adverse childhood experiences and criminal justice, employment and educational outcomes. Breaking the cycle across generations is vitally important.”

Despite the latest funding announcement, he says the Government must do more. “I believe South Yorkshire Police are doing as much as the Government will allow them to do with, and together we are further investing in early intervention projects.

“But as Alan Billings, Police Crime Commissioner, noted recently many of the causes of violent crime are out of our control, and in the hands of the Government – and this is why we need them to match our ambitions and show clear leadership on this issue.”

The Liberal Democrats say they would invest more than £250,000 in reducing knife crime by recognising that it’s a public health issue. They would support community sport projects such as De Hood and Unity Gym who provide activities for young people and their local communities.

Lib Dem Leader Coun Shaffaq Mohammed said: “Our country is facing a national crisis in relation to knife crime.

“Locally we have in the past year seen local projects such as the De Hood, Unity Gym and Mums United attend council meetings, highlighting their great work to us all but also wanting our support.

“A fund of £250,000 would support the work of these fabulous community projects and would be available to groups and charities across the city to delivery activities and events for our young people to keep them safe.

“We believe in empowering local communities to bring forward solutions to tackles issues they are facing, we do not believe that the Town Hall always knows best.”

The Green Party said employing more police officers wasn’t the single answer. Coun Robert Murphy said: “Knife crime is not as simple as having more police. We are looking at prevention and dealing with with community problems as well as enforcement.

“We have proposals for mental health workers in schools to stop pupil exclusions which are often the first sign of disenfranchised young people to turn to gangs.

“We would fund an extra four Police Community Safety Officers and employ four Safer Neighbourhoods Officers to make people feel safer.”

The Greens say school exclusions have a “hugely damaging impact” on children and their families.

Coun Kaltum Rivers said: “We would invest in a new post to develop the building of mental resilience in Year 6 children, supporting them through the transition to high-school and making young teens more resilient.”

UKIP believe community boxing gyms would be effective. Coun John Booker said: ”Boxing, sports clubs and community projects are essential in combating many of today’s social problems.

“Anyone involved in these projects knows of their benefits. A few months ago, in the Town Hall, we heard members of De Hood tell us their varied stories. They included young people successfully getting back into mainstream education.

“Boxing and related training can help where many social problems manifest themselves. Boxing is a universal language, it’s not a release of aggression but a replacement of aggression.

“Everyone involved in these community projects knows of their benefits. They are a vehicle to learn and develop values and skills which lead to discipline, self control and defence, exercise, fitness and above all, self-belief and confidence. These clubs are vitally important.”