Why is violent crime falling across South Yorkshire?
Plus, the rest of your weekly briefing
Good afternoon readers — and welcome to this week’s Monday briefing.
Today we take a look at some positive news on crime after a new set of figures showed violent offences falling in South Yorkshire. We also feature a great review of an Ecclesall Road restaurant and recommend a Netflix series about a notorious Sheffield conman.
We got a really good reaction to Jack Walton’s evocative and very funny weekend read about the last working mens’ clubs in Sheffield. You can still read that piece here.
Last week we sent out two great stories to our now 551 paying members. The first was an incredibly moving piece about a disabled Rotherham man who collects dolls to fulfil his dreams of being a father and the second was an in-depth look at Oliver Coppard’s succesful bid to be Labour’s candidate for South Yorkshire Mayor. An extract from that second piece is below.
“If this campaign would have been run 2/3 years ago, with Momentum behind him, I think Lewis Dagnall might well have won,” said Professor Seyd. “Things have shifted since then but you still can't underestimate Momentum’s pull and clout. It looks like a lot of party members have been persuaded to come back and Oliver Coppard has benefitted from that shift in the party’s grassroots. I thought he would win but Dagnall’s campaign ran them close.”
This week we’ll send two more including one about a largely forgotten Sheffield local historian and folklorist who was the city’s answer to the Brothers Grimm. If you want all our stories direct to your inbox please consider subscribing using the button below. It costs less than £1.40 a week if you pay up-front.
This week’s weather
Our weather forecast comes from dedicated Sheffield weather service Steel City Skies, who forecast a “broad north/south divide with Sheffield avoiding the worst of the wind and rain to the north, without quite managing a completely dry time of it. Temperatures picking up briefly, before turning cooler by week's end”.
Monday ⛅️ Storm Corrie will be clearing our shores but it will still be a windy day. Bright or sunny spells with a risk of early showery outbreaks of rain. A drying trend with temperatures close to average, though feeling chilly in the wind. Highs of 6°C.
Tuesday & Wednesday ☁️ cloud will increase as we head towards midweek (and into February). An area of low pressure to the north will do battle with high pressure to the south and southwest. A long and winding weather front straddles between the two systems, and is modelled to get stuck across the UK for much of this period 😐 Patchy outbreaks of rain cannot be ruled out, nor can the occasional glimpse of sunshine. Breezy and turning milder with highs of 11°C.
Thursday 🌦 our stuck weather front finally shifts south as the next area of low pressure squashes Iceland. It'll bring strong southwesterly winds and a cold front south and east. Bright, changeable skies with spells of showery rain during the afternoon. Highs of 10°C. A frost then likely overnight with a few showers, turning wintry over the tops.
Friday 🌦 bright, breezy and showery at times with hail, sleet and possible wet snow over the Peaks. Another frost likely in sheltered spots overnight. Highs of 6°C.
Further ahead: The changeable and windy conditions persist into the weekend, with temperatures close to the seasonal average.
The big story: Why is violent crime falling across South Yorkshire?
Top line: The latest crime figures for South Yorkshire from the Office for National Statistics have been published, showing large falls in offences involving guns and knives. Why is it happening?
Data: The ONS found that in the 12 months from October 2020 to September 2021, overall crime fell by 2%.
However, much bigger falls in firearm offences (-18%) and knife crime (-15%) were recorded; and theft (-13%), residential burglary (-12%) and robbery (-8%) were all substantially down.
Crimes that are on the increase include drug offences (up by 17%) and possession of weapons (up by 5%), although these rises are thought to be down to improved enforcement.
Crime trends: While both overall crime and violent crime has been going down for the last 20 years, what the ONS call “low volume but high harm” events like murders, shootings and stabbings went up in the 2010s, including in Sheffield.
Knife Crime: In 2018, a total of 22 stabbings took place in Sheffield. The incidents left five people dead and 17 injured, and on one occasion led to officers being granted stop and search powers in the city.
Gun crime: 2020 saw a big increase in firearms offences in Sheffield. A total of 37 separate shootings took place in the calendar year. One person was killed and 16 were injured, some seriously.
Police numbers: One of the reasons put forward for the increase in serious violent crime was the decrease in the number of frontline police officers which took place during the 2010s. Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Billings has previously pointed out that the force lost 500 officers out of a total of 3,000 since 2010. A recent recruitment drive has seen this trend reversed, however, and the force will soon have 200 more officers than it did 12 years ago.
Targeted policing: Another possible reason for the fall might be a change in approach from South Yorkshire Police. In response to the spate of gun crime that Sheffield saw in 2020, the force set up a new Armed Crime Team to target the drug dealers and organised criminal gangs who were believed to be responsible for the violence.
A public health approach? However, a further strategy that has been tried in recent years is one that treats violent crime as a public health problem. In 2019, a new Violence Reduction Unit was set up to bring together the police with health, education and social work professionals, mirroring an approach that was successful in Scotland in the 2000s and 2010s.
Bottom line: Whatever the cause (and it’s probably a bit of all three) the reduction in violence is welcome news. However, anti-gang violence campaigner Sahira Irshad from Mums United told The Tribune that the headline statistics, while positive, were not fully representative of the deep underlying issues that many communities were facing. She said:
Although enforcement is key, it is not a sustainable solution. Preventative measures need to be put in place and the police need to work at the grassroots to build community cohesion. Also, many crimes are not recorded. We can’t afford to be complacent that we don't have a problem with knife crime and gangs anymore.
Home of the week
Four renovated townhouses, which are part of Sheffield’s new Heart of the City development, have just come on the market. The homes, which are in the renovated Laycock House on Pinstone Street and overlook the Peace Gardens, are priced from £325,000 to £399,950.
Cases: The Covid case rate in Sheffield (the number of positive cases per 100,000 people over seven days) is still falling albeit slower than it was. Last Tuesday the rate was 937.5, 567 cases or 9.3% down on the previous week. The UK average rose by 1.6% to 940.
Hospitals: As of last Tuesday, 278 patients were in hospital in Sheffield being treated for Covid-19, a fall of 35 from the previous week. The number of people in critical care fell from 11 to five. 12 deaths linked to the virus took place over the last seven days.
Rules: Mask wearing is no longer required in public places and it is also no longer essential to show proof of vaccination or a negative test to enter large venues. Working from home orders have also ended and the three visitor limit on care home visits has been scrapped.
This wonderful photo of the University of Sheffield’s iconic Arts Tower has been widely shared this week. Taken by street photographer Robert Blomfield in 1965, it is part of a series he took in the city between the early 1950s and the mid-1960s. The Arts Tower is the tallest academic building in the UK and features one of only two working Paternoster lifts in the country.
Our favourite reads
Many thanks to Sheffield food blogger Kasturi Pindar for sending us this review of a “master pasta class” she attended at Italian restaurant Butta la Pasta. The author details her mostly successful attempts to make orecchiette and tortellini, and speaks to owner Stephen Ogden about what led him to give up being a nurse to become a chef.
A lovely piece by Andy Kershaw in The Star about efforts to commemorate the life and work of Sheffield’s last “little mester” Stan Shaw, who died last year. A special memorial service for the master knife maker is to be held at the Cathedral next month, and an appeal to raise funds for a permanent memorial has been launched.
We’ve covered the issue of small properties in The Tribune before, but this house in Hunter’s Bar has a “garden” that has to be seen to be believed. The one-bedroomed house on Pinner Road, which is on the market for £185,000, is described as “quite nice” by some, but the “claustrophobic” outside space is a definite drawback.
Continuing this week’s food themed reading recommendations is this great review of the Sheffield restaurant Juke and Low in The Observer. Respected food critic Jay Rayner says the small Ecclesall Road bistro’s bold cooking is “designed to satisfy rather than impress with its own cleverness”. Find out more at their website here.
According to reports over the weekend, Sheffield has been chosen as one of 20 areas in the UK to receive money under the government’s much-vaunted “Levelling Up” scheme. Yorkshire Live reports that the city is in line to benefit from a share of a £1.5 billion fund which will see brownfield sites developed for housing — but Labour say it isn’t new money.
Things to do
Watch: New Netflix series Puppet Master: Hunting the Ultimate Conman tells the story of Robert Hendy-Freegard, a former car salesman from Dronfield who pretended to be an MI5 agent in order to swindle an estimated £1m from his victims. Hendy-Freegard was given a life sentence for kidnap in 2005 but successfully appealed and was released in 2009. His current whereabouts are unknown. The show gets a four-star review in The Guardian here.
Theatre: Coming to the Crucible this Saturday for three weeks (5-26 February) is a “bold” new stage production of Anna Karenina. The story centres on an admired but unfulfilled socialite who must choose between her husband and child or the risk of ruin in pursuit of passion. Leo Tolstoy’s epic masterpiece, which is often considered to be one of the greatest works of literature ever written, explores themes of desire, duty and defiance.
Politics: The idea of providing all citizens with a Universal Basic Income or UBI is one that’s got a lot of attention recently. Active campaign groups exist in both Sheffield and Greater Manchester, with the latter this week hosting an online talk about the policy. The event, which features Andy Burnham on the panel and is hosted by our sister paper The Mill’s editor Joshi Herrmann, takes place on Wednesday (February 2) between 6pm-7pm.
Food and drink: The first Peddler Market of the year takes place this weekend (Friday, 4 and Saturday, 5 February) featuring pizza from B’Reyt Dough, sweet treats from Cookie Mumsters and vegan bao buns from Urbuns, plus the usual wide variety of drinks, craft stalls and entertainment. Also in attendance will be Manchester-based artist Mr Woody Woods who will hand draw an amazing caricature of you or your dog in just five minutes.
Visit: The University of Sheffield’s Engineering Fun: The Story of Orton & Spooner exhibition documents the astonishing ingenuity of one of the most significant fairground ride and equipment manufacturers in Britain. The collection of more than two hundred drawings, plans and photographs is part of the Fair and Circus Archive at Western Bank Library which is open on Monday-Thursday 9am-7pm, Friday 10am-7pm and Saturday-Sunday 12-6pm.
As shown by the marvellous array of moustaches above, the Sheffield Archives are a veritable treasure trove for fans of fabulous facial hair. Libraries Sheffield have even put together a top ten ‘taches from their extensive archive here.