Sheffield’s crime fear is laid bare in new Star survey findings

A major survey run by The Star looking at the state of life in Sheffield has gauged the level of concern readers feel about crime.
A major survey run by The Star looking at the state of life in Sheffield has gauged the level of concern readers feel about crime.

More than half of people in Sheffield feel crime is a big problem locally – and nearly 60 per cent think the city is less safe now than it was five years ago.

A major survey run by The Star looking at the state of life in Sheffield has gauged the level of concern readers feel about crime.

Just over 60 per cent of those polled either agreed, or strongly agreed, that offences of all kinds – ranging from shoplifting to murder – were a major concern in the city.

A further 58 per cent disagreed that the city was a safer place now than it was in 2012, while a little over 30 per cent neither agreed nor disagreed, suggesting they had seen no particular decline or improvement over the past half-decade.

Less than five per cent of respondents claimed they were happier to walk streets anywhere in the city without fear of becoming a crime victim.

Instead, 72 per cent admitted avoiding certain areas because they believed there was a higher risk of being targeted by criminals.

Just over 68 per cent of the 2,938 people surveyed disagreed with the idea that police officers have a high profile in Sheffield.

And when readers were asked whether they ‘felt safe when out and about in the city’, the answer showed a mixed picture.

A third said they were not worried about being harmed, and another third said they felt unsafe, with a quarter having no strong feeling either way.

But despite the survey’s findings, very few participants said they had actually fallen victim to crime themselves since the end of last year.

Almost half said they hadn’t been singled out in the past 12 months, and nor had anyone they knew.

Nearly 20 per cent said a crime had been committed against a family or friend in the previous year, and 21 per cent said someone else they knew had been a victim.

Just 13 per cent of those polled said they had been affected personally.

Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire’s police and crime commissioner, said: “There is clearly a mismatch between what people experience personally as far as crime goes and what they feel about crime. But Sheffield remains a safe city compared with some other places.

“The job of the police is to help us feel safe as well as to keep us safe. The recent return to neighbourhood policing and more visible policing in some of our shopping centres should help that. But we have to be realistic and recognise that austerity does mean there are fewer police officers than in the past. The police in Sheffield, as throughout the country, have to get smarter with no extra resources - and that gets more difficult every year.”

In Sheffield, police chiefs are trying to reconnect with communities as part of a shake-up. Around 400 staff will be moved from response teams, which normally answer 999 calls, into neighbourhood roles as ‘problem solvers’.

A previous instalment of The Star’s survey earlier this week found half of respondents thought policing was among the public services most in need of extra money.