More police funding has been demanded after figures obtained by the Doncaster Free Press 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 across South Yorkshire.
A total of 3,875 robberies were reported across Doncaster, Sheffield, Barnsley and Rotherham between 2011 and 2015, representing an increase of nine per cent from 2011 to 2015.
In Doncaster, the town centre area had the most robbery reports, with 143 between 2011 and 2015. In terms of the top 10 hot spot districts in the town, Hexthorpe was second with 62 and Hyde Park third with 54.
These latest statistics also come as a number of serious incidents have caused alarm within Doncaster communities over the last several days. A woman was arrested on suspicion of murder after a 43-year-old man’s body was discovered in Cross Street, Balby, on Friday. A few days earlier, a man was charged with attempted murder after a 41-year-old man was taken to hospital with stab wounds following an unrelated incident in Manor Road, Harlington. And, a couple were threatened with a gun by masked raiders in their Hatfield home last Wednesday.
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, coupled with the recent string of serious incidents, has prompted Doncaster community leaders to call for more funding to help police tackle crime.
Town centre councillor Sue Knowles, who has herself been the victim of four home break-ins, said: “Constituents raise the issue with me that we don’t see as many PCSOs or officers on the beat anymore. They offer a reassuring presence and I don’t think people feel as secure anymore. Funding cuts from central government have led to a reduction in police staff. More money needs to be focused on the police.”
She added: “As a victim I can say it is a very intrusive crime. On the last break-in about five years ago I had some jewellery taken, which was very personal to me. It makes you feel awful.”
Stuart Boardman, 42, managing director of Hexthorpe Social Enterprise CIC, said: “I think there is a clear link between having more bobbies on the beat and reducing crime. It is a visual deterrent. If certain people know there are police about, they will be less inclined to commit a crime.
“I got broken into years ago and it is an awful experience. It makes you wonder what you are going to come home to every day.”
He added: “It tends to go in seasons in Hexthorpe, there seems to be more crime in summer so people are concerned about what the next few months will hold. When you have a run of high profile incidents, like recently, it would be nice to have more of a visible police presence on the streets to reassure people.”
Shop owner Ryan Link recently told how one of his members of staff was threatened with a knife during an armed raid at the Bargain Beers store in Balby Road, Hexthorpe.
He said his colleague, who was allegedly assaulted and dragged across the shop floor, was left in a state of “shock”. But he added he was “not surprised” the robbery happened as “it happens to a lot of shops in this area.”
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 number of robbery crimes has fallen year on year.
He said: “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.”
Doncaster’s top cop has sought to reassure the public that funding cuts have not affected officers’ staunch determination to bring offenders to justice.
Detective Chief Inspector Jade Brice, South Yorkshire Police’s new crime manager, told the Free Press: “Reducing crime and the impact it has on victims is a top priority for the force - whilst significant savings continue to be made by the force, due to cuts in government funding, I am confident that these savings have not affected the drive and determination in my officers in their efforts to identify, arrest and prosecute offenders.
“Robberies in Doncaster are relatively rare but when they do occur, the public can rest assured that they are investigated by trained officers who are committed to achieving justice for victims.
“I believe that offenders understand the risks they are taking; we will carry out thorough investigations to achieve significant jail sentences.
“It is also important to point out that South Yorkshire Police has to ensure that its service fully complies with National Crime Recording Standards, which has, in itself, resulted in some crimes being recorded even where the full circumstances cannot be confirmed.
“This has in itself resulted in more victim-focussed crime recording.”
He added: “I also believe that some rises in victim-based crimes, including non-recent incidents, can be directly linked to the confidence the public has in the police because they know they will be taken seriously and treated with respect and dignity.
“From a personal perspective, I am passionate about reducing and detecting crime in Doncaster and I am very proud of the progress we have made in the last 12 months.
“Officers in Doncaster have recovered an large amount of cash, drugs and stolen property as well as a small number of firearms.
“I cannot recall a 12-month period where so many offenders involved in crimes such as robbery, burglary and vehicle crime have been charged and brought to justice for their offending.
“As a direct result, we have seen crime figures in some areas reduce to unprecedented levels.”
For emergencies call 999.
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You can also log them online by visiting http://www.reportingcrime.uk/
Alternatively ring Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.