South Yorkshire Police describe the last 12 months as ‘challenging’ in the force’s annual report for the county’s Police and Crime Commissioner.
The report, covering April 2015 to March 2016, recognises the difficulties the force has experienced and admits the ‘challenges remain’.
“The reporting period has been challenging for South Yorkshire Police for numerous reasons and many of those challenges remain,” the report concludes.
“South Yorkshire is considered the 12th most challenging area in England and Wales to police and South Yorkshire Police is the fourth lowest- funded force in the country.
“There are significant legacy issues that have and continue to impact upon the officers and staff of the force as well as the perception of the public. In spite of these challenges, real progress has been made over the previous 12 months, particularly in the area of protecting vulnerable people.”
Over the last 12 months the force has had to react to the child sexual exploitation scandal which rocked Rotherham. The force also had the new Hillsborough inquests to deal with, a reducing budget and a change in leadership following the suspension of Chief Constable David Crompton.
‘Organised crime groups’ and ‘urban street gangs’ ‘pose a significant risk to both themselves and the public’, according to a comprehensive new report on the state of crime in South Yorkshire today.
The report on the state of crime in South Yorkshire today reveals there are 105 organised crime gangs in the county.
The report says ‘many are linked to drugs markets and firearms’.
Analysis of the 105 gangs operating in South Yorkshire today shows 42 per cent are involved in drugs and 27 per cent have links to guns.
Forty per cent of the gangs have at least one member in prison, the report states.
“The make- up of various gangs are varied, with Doncaster dealing with numerous groups linked to the travelling community and Sheffield experiencing the more recognised issues of inner city organised crime groups and urban street gangs,” the report reveals.
It says South Yorkshire Police is running operations to break up the gangs and there is work under way to try to divert young people away from lives of crime through schools.
In extreme cases, involving criminal families, children are being removed from their homes in a bid to ‘break the cycle’.
“Innovations include the involvement of social care in intervening where children are living in families involved in organised criminality in order to break the cycle of criminality,” says the report.
“This is particularly important as for many families, organised crime group membership spans generations.”
South Yorkshire Police said a crackdown on the gangs, codenamed Operation Zeus, was launched to tackle ‘armed criminality and the increase of inferred firearms on the streets of South Yorkshire’.
“Gangs who are linked to firearms are being prioritised for intervention due to the risk that they pose to the public,” says the report.
CHILD SEXUAL EXPLOITATION
Between April 2015 and March 2016 South Yorkshire Police received 894 child safeguarding referrals relating to child sexual exploitation – an average of 75 per month.
The report says most offences are alleged to have been committed in Rotherham and the ‘historic nature’
of many makes them difficult to investigate but there are 183 investigations currently under way.
Over the last year, 37 per cent of child sex offences investigated led to suspects getting charged.
The report says: “Whilst child sexual exploitation is an important challenge for the force to tackle it has not lost sight of child abuse as a whole, with evidence suggesting CSE makes up a small proportion of offences committed against children.
“South Yorkshire Police continues to seek to improve its ability to respond to these cases and to support and safeguard victims through a multi-agency approach.
“Inter-familial child abuse still accounts for the largest proportion of offences against children both nationally and within South Yorkshire.
“It is difficult to quantify exact figures for child abuse crimes as these will be recorded across several crime types and not all are sexual offences. The force has continued to work with partners to look for signs of abuse and open
avenues of communication for both victims and public sector workers to make police aware of concerns.”
There has been an 18 per cent increase in reported sexual offences, with an average of 228 reported each month.
South Yorkshire Police currently monitors 1,233 registered sex offenders – an increase on 110 from the previous year.
The report states: “As convictions increase so does the volume of people on the Sex Offenders’ Register.”
South Yorkshire Police uses voluntary lie detector tests on offenders being released into the community to check they are not at risk of reoffending.
The report states: “This allows officers to assess risk based on current circumstances and not historic risk levels, making the assessment more meaningful and accurate.
“South Yorkshire Police is one of the few forces using polygraph testing for the management of all newly convicted or existing registered sex offenders and all suspects being investigated for the possession of indecent images.
“Two dedicated detectives work in the unit and the impact of their work has been considerable.
“In a number of cases, subjects have revealed previously undisclosed contact with children or other vulnerable people, others have revealed offending behaviour, which has resulted in arrest or further investigation whilst other subjects have revealed offending behaviour, which has resulted in arrest or further investigation whilst other subjects have revealed concerning risk behaviours that required mitigation.
“So far, there have been 146 assessments, of which two directly led to investigations.”
South Yorkshire Police received more than 23,000 calls about domestic incidents last year – accounting for five per cent of all incidents reported to the force, with 8,000 domestic abuse crimes logged. Following criticism from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary last year, which found the force was not ‘consistently good’ at responding to domestic abuse, a review was undertaken and changes made.
The report states: “All high-risk offenders become domestic priority arrest targets and are relentlessly pursued by frontline And specialist staff.”
Suspects get charged or receive a caution or other sanction in 35 per cent of cases, according to the report.
There were 94,492 incidents of anti-social behaviour reported in South Yorkshire last year – almost one fifth of all incidents reported to the force. But over the last year South Yorkshire Police was ranked among the top 10 forces
in the country for reductions in anti-social behaviour. Specialist anti-social behaviour teams have been set up. And the report says the force plans to make more use of civil orders to ‘disrupt more serious criminality’ and break the
cycle of criminality in troublesome families.
There were 8,200 ‘missing person’ reports filed last year – a 51 per cent increase on the year before.
Of those, 752 involved children who went missing more than once over the 12-month period – an increase of 22 per cent.
The report says: “Not only do missing persons represent considerable demand for police resources but they also pose a significant risk.
“Many of those reported missing are vulnerable looked-after children who may be exposed to an increased risk of abuse, victimisation or indeed becoming involved in criminality themselves,” the report says.
It adds that the downsizing of other public bodies has led to the police becoming the ‘service of last resort’, with officers conducting some roles which other bodies have traditionally done, such as checking on the safety of people.
South Yorkshire Police has carried out a ‘threat assessment’ and deems South Yorkshire as ‘high risk’.
The report says “There is considerable intelligence, nationally, to suggest it is going on but the breadth and scale of it largely remains unknown.”
A modern slavery team has been set up to locally increase the force’s ‘understanding of the breadth and scale of modern slavery and human trafficking within the county, to conduct proactive operations to disrupt and prosecute traffickers and to better protect the victims of this crime’.
MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES
Over the last year, South Yorkshire Police dealt with 6,411 incidents where mental health played a role.
The force says it is feeling the ‘impact’ of other services scaling back what they do.
“One factor that has impacted on South Yorkshire Police’s demand is the contraction of other public sector bodies like the NHS and local authorities,” the report says.
“This means there is less capacity to proactively support mentally ill people in the community and more find themselves vulnerable as a result.”