More funding needed to help police beat the robbers in Dearne Valley plea

South Yorkshire PCC Dr Alan Billings
South Yorkshire PCC Dr Alan Billings

More police funding has been demanded after figures obtained by the South Yorkshire Times reveal a rise in robberies across the area since 2011.

The figures show there has been a 25 per cent surge in robberies at businesses, and a nine per cent overall increase in the last five years.

Frank Knapton MBE, of Mexborough stands infront of the River Don as he is complaining about the smell caused by a sewerage spill. Picture: Andrew Roe

Frank Knapton MBE, of Mexborough stands infront of the River Don as he is complaining about the smell caused by a sewerage spill. Picture: Andrew Roe

A total of 3,875 robberies were reported across Sheffield, Barnsley, Rotherham and Doncaster between 2011 and 2015, an increase of nine per cent from 2011 to 2015.

South Yorkshire Police pointed to a 5.5 per cent decrease in 2015 compared to 2014 as evidence the crime is ‘going in the right direction.’

But the figures covering the last five years as a whole has prompted Dearne Valley community leaders to call for more funding to help police tackle the crimes.

Mexborough resident Frank Knapton MBE, who served as a police officer in South Yorkshire and London for 25 years, said he would like to see more funding for the South Yorkshire force.

Jill Arkley-Jevons, pictured by her sons graves which have suffered vandalism and been targeted by thieves at Mexborough Cemetery. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP 14-05-15 Cemetery MC 1

Jill Arkley-Jevons, pictured by her sons graves which have suffered vandalism and been targeted by thieves at Mexborough Cemetery. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP 14-05-15 Cemetery MC 1

The 79-year-old said: “It is disturbing to see that the figures have been on the rise in recent years.

“The police do need more money to tackle these issues. I was pleased to see earlier this year that South Yorkshire councils had agreed to give the force more funding in the coming year through a council tax rise. This will equate to about £5 a year per household I think - but that is a small price to pay to have an improved police force.”

Former Mexborough councillor and youth worker Jill Arkley-Jevons was also concerned about the figure. Although she has not been robbed, she was left devastated when thieves stole items from the graveside of her two sons in Mexborough Cemetery last year and is concerned about crime.

The 63-year-old said: “Being a victim of burglary is horrible. It is very intrusive and makes you feel on edge. I think people generally do feel like they have to take extra precautions these days - we all have house alarms for example. We would all like to see more bobbies back on the beat.”

Generic break-in picture

Generic break-in picture

In Doncaster, the town centre had the most robbery reports, with 143 between 2011 and 2015. In terms of the top 10 hot spot districts in the town, Mexborough was sixth with 40 reported robberies and Conisbrough was tenth with 22 incidents.

The highest robbery hot spot in Rotherham was the Rotherham South ward, which includes areas such as Maltby, Brinsworth and Swallownest, with 105 incidents. Wentworth North - which covers Swinton, Wath and Brampton Bierlow, had 46 robberies.

In Barnsley, the central area was ranked highest with 62 incidents. Goldthorpe had 24 robberies and was placed third highest.

Figures also reveal unusual weapons used include an egg, dog lead, crockery, fork, hypodermic needles and ‘bodily fluids including blood/saliva/excreta’. Unusual locations for personal robberies include three robberies at massage parlours, 15 in churchyards or cemeteries, 10 at skate parks and 17 in prisons.

During the incidents, there were 5,949 weapons used – although some offences involved multiple weapons and 2,142 involved ‘fist or hands’ as a weapon.

Knives, handguns, hammers and machetes were the most used weapons for business robberies, with supermarkets, bookmakers, newsagents and off-licences top targets.

Across all robberies, there were 123 instances of handguns being used, 76 involving a metal bar, 74 a baseball bat.

A total of 492 knives were used, including 293 kitchen knives, 10 lock knives and 71 machetes.

But South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings stressed the crime had fallen year on year.

He said: “When we talk about ‘armed robberies’ we need to reassure the public that that includes imitation guns and plastic guns, and none of them were discharged.

“I don’t think we have a gang problem or a gun problem in Sheffield, or a big problem around armed robberies. We have a problem, but not a big one.

“There was a rise in robbery between 2011 and 2014, but last year we had a fall by nearly six per cent. It’s going in the right direction. The question for me is ‘how can I keep that going?’

“Overall crime has been going down for a number of years but that will not continue if budget cuts continue.”

Detective Chief Inspector Steve Whittaker said: “Robberies are extremely serious offences and any increase in crime is a concern.

“This year we expect to see a drop, and that is down to the hard work we have done tackling this.

“We will always try to reassure the public and we have put local patrols in the areas most affected and have made successful arrests.”

He said police budgets cuts had not impacted on the number of officers on the frontline.

He added: “Although some officer numbers have been cut, we have better resourcing, better tasking and briefing and we are using those officers more strategically in hot spots of crime.

“We have undertaken successful operations in Sheffield to tackle knife crime including putting officers in underpasses where robberies occur and we have used both covert and overt tactics.”