Special Report: Sarah Marshall joins police on a busy night shift across sheffield
A man with a 32-inch kitchen knife, a brawl on West Street, yobs on a suspected stolen motorbike and shoplifting.
They are all in a night’s work for busy police officers on the night shift in Sheffield.
Just moments before the 10pm shift starts, police constables Simon Pickering and Steve Dales were called out to West Street to reports of a 22-year-old man in possession of a kitchen knife.
City centre CCTV meant the officers were able to track the man’s movements, and he was quickly apprehended near to the Wick At Both Ends pub.
PC Pickering said: “We had to stop-and-search the man based on the information we had been given by doormen who said they thought they had seen him in possession of some sort of knife.
He was very drunk and said he was carrying it for protection. We’ve had to put him in the cells and will question him the next morning when he sobers up
“When we stopped him and began searching him he pointed to the waistband of his jeans.
“We found a 32-inch knife with the blade positioned on his thigh.
“He was very drunk and said he was carrying it for protection. We’ve had to put him in the cells and will question him the next morning when he sobers up.”
Sgt Mark Strong saidincidents like this one are becoming more and more common, due to an increasing number of people carrying kitchen knives.
He said: “People are perceiving the need to have protection out there so have started carrying your standard kitchen knives that you find in most homes.
“We get about one of these incidents in the city centre every night.
“Some people who carry them are involved in some sort of feud, but there’s a lot that says it’s just for their general protection.”
PC Mark Ellis and PC Ben Hyman, stationed at West Bar, work as the police’s equivalent of an emergency first responder because their high-speed BMW Four Series vehicle is able to reach the scene of any incident much quicker than the standard-issue ‘panda car’.
This means that on any given night they could be called to incidents anywhere from Stocksbridge to Woodseats.
During the first patrol of West Street of the evening within seconds they drove past two groups of men involved in a fight. And despite the car being driven up on to the pavement just a couple of feet from where the fight was taking place, and officers trying to reason with the two men scrapping the men had to be pulled apart before the fighting stops.
Both groups of men appeared to be very intoxicated, and after speaking to PC Hyman one of the groups left the scene.
Police then turned their attention to the other group. One of the men shouted: “I haven’t done nothing, it was all them. You can’t do anything to me.”
As he shouted the man was swaying and almost lost his balance.
The officers took the names and addresses of the two men and told them to stop drinking and to go home.
PC Ellis said: “This is like a verbal section 35 dispersal order that bans them from the city centre for up to 48 hours. If they listen and they go home then we’ll have no more problems. But if we see them again, then we’ll issue a formal one. If they breach that, then they can be prosecuted and pay a fine.
“We issue a lot of Section 35 orders on Fridays and Saturdays, usually about six or seven. It’s basically giving people the opportunity to sort themselves out. These kind of incidents make up every Friday and Saturday night.”
During the rest of the evening they were also called out to reports of an aggressive shoplifter at the Tesco store on Eyre Lane who threatened staff before fleeing the scene as well as reports of a burglary in Bowshaw Lane, Batemoor.
While patrolling in Norton, PC Ellis and PC Hyman drove past two men on motorcycles driving erratically.
When they were asked to pull over to speak to police, both began speeding up and attempted to get away from the scene.
One of the men made off on to the road, while another drove the bike on to a copse nearby and then into a alleyway.
Both officers got out of the car to chase him but they were unable to catch up with him,
PC Hyman said they have seen a spike of burglaries, particularly that of vehicles and power tools, in the Batemoor area over the last month.
He said: “That’s the other side of it at Christmas, as well as reports of drunk and disorderly behaviour, we also see a spike in the number of burglaries. It’s people trying to pay for extra things for their Christmases. We spend a lot of time attending burglaries at Christmas.”
A short time later another patrol car spotted the motorcyclist and he was followed by three police cars towards Lower Meadow Primary School.
He then abandoned the motorcycle and jumped the fence to make it in to the school’s playing field. Officers surrounded the perimeter, but couldn’t spot the suspect because it was pitch-black.
A police dog was sent in around 15 minutes later – only two police dogs are available for the entire force on any given evening – to find the suspect, but he couldn’t be tracked down.
The motorbike, which had been reported stolen the previous day, was then recovered and the suspect’s helmet which was abandoned in the school field was found and was sent off for DNA testing.
While the festive and New year period is supposed to be a time of joy and peace, it can be anything but for Sheffield’s police officers who are faced with scores of drunk, and sometimes dangerous, revellers every evening.
“Mad Friday is our busiest night of the year, definitely,” said PC Mark Ellis, stationed at the city centre’s Snig Hill station.
“You get a lot of people out who might not normally venture into the city on a Friday and Saturday night but would come out then.
“It’s the same with the run-up to Christmas too because of all of the people coming out for their Christmas parties.
“The problem you have then is with people who aren’t used to drinking, and start drinking to excess and then don’t know how to handle it.”
Tens of thousands of merry-makers pour into the city centre for a festive booze-up for the infamous night of revelry on the last Friday before Christmas.
On a normal Friday evening, South Yorkshire Police have four vans stationed in the city centre, each one containing at least four officers and a police sergeant.
But on Mad Friday this number increased to 17 vans and around 70 officers, most working additional hours and paid overtime to keep the city centre streets safe on the busiest night of the year.
PC Ellis added: “It’s just constant. On Mad Friday we’ll go from drunk and disorderly call-out, to drunk and disorderly call-out.
“The majority of people will be in town to have a good time with friends and so they’ll generally be okay when you try and break up a fight but you will get some who are out to cause trouble and it’s those people who won’t listen and will create problems.”
While Mad Friday is the worst night of the year for South Yorkshire Police, and forces across the country, the entire festive period is also extremely busy time for officers.