Sheffield community hits back over 'one of country's most anti-social estates' label

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Parson Cross may have been shamed as 'one of the most anti-social' estates in the country - but residents who live there are having none of it.

New research revealed the area to be one of the most notorious crime hot spots across England and Wales - with 143 incidents reported in a six-month period. Anti-social behaviour, criminal damage, violent attacks and theft make up the bulk of the offences.

Lewis Parkin and Katie Fields.

Lewis Parkin and Katie Fields.

Meanwhile a recent spate of arson attacks - one of which resulted in a gas explosion - has also raised questions about the safety of the estate, once regarded as one of Europe's largest concentrations of council housing.

But defiant residents spoke out today in defence of their community and rubbished 'knocking stories' about where they live. Police also put the crime statistics down to a small number of repeat offenders.

One resident who has seen both extremes of the place - the heart-warming community spirit and the scourge of criminals - is mum-of-five Katie Fields.

The 32-year-old was left devastated when burglars broke into her home and stole her son Lewis Parkin's beloved X-Box, along with two TVs, an i-pad and a laptop. This all happened while the 13-year-old was in a coma in hospital after being knocked over by a car.

Parson Cross.

Parson Cross.

But what happened next 'restored the family's faith in people' as the community rallied round to raise money to buy them back all of the stolen equipment - including Lewis's prized games console.

Katie said: "We always hear knocking stories about the area. There is a lot of crime, no doubt, but what happened to us just shows you the great community spirit.

"We were devastated by the burglary but equally couldn't believe how generous people had been. It restores your faith in people."

She was by Lewis's side in Sheffield Children's Hospital one weekend towards the end of January when thieves broke into their Old School Drive home and stole around £1500 worth of possessions.

The Chaucer School student suffered a fractured skull and neck, two broken legs, a shattered jaw and a brain bleed after being knocked over by a taxi in Buchanan Road. He spent eight weeks in hospital, including two in a coma.

Katie feared the worst and the incident brought back nightmares after Lewis' younger brother Samuel died suddenly in her arms in 2014, two years ago, aged seven, from complications arising from rheumatoid arthritis.

She said: "I rushed to the scene and saw him lying there not breathing, I was in shock."

Residents quickly set up online fundraising pages and staff at the local Tesco organised charity events. Within weeks all of the stolen items were bought back.

Lewis said: "I love playing video games and I want to say thank you to everyone."

Their heart-warming story comes as police data obtained by software company Hopewiser found Buchanan Drive in Parson Cross and the immediate surrounding streets saw 143 crimes reported from July to December last year - the fourth highest in England and Wales. This included 133 anti-social behaviour incidents alone, with many other thefts, assaults and sexual offences.

Furthermore, arsonists sparked a fire which caused a gas explosion at a home in Wordsworth Drive on Sunday evening - one of 28 arson attacks this year in the wider Parson Cross, Firth Park and Southey area.

While residents recognise crime levels are high, they disregarded many incidents as 'petty crime'.

Father-of-three Rob Kirkham, aged 48, of Buchanan Crescent, said: "We get nuisance motorbikes and low-level crime, but it doesn't feel dangerous.

"We moved into a council house here 15 years ago and like it so much we have bought it. We plan to stay here."

Dan Fairest, aged 21, of Palgrave Road, said: "People tend to keep themselves to themselves. If you don't bother people then they don't bother you."

A man who has owned a business in Buchanan Road for 25 years but did not want to be named, added: "Nobody seems to feel scared, sadly some crime is part of life in a community."

However, they did call for more to be done to give young people 'something to do' on an evening to keep them out of trouble.

Mr Kirkham, a clinical support worker at Northern General Hospital, said: "There doesn't seem to be many youth clubs about. There were loads when I was a kid, they should bring them back."

The authorities stress that they are on top of the situation.

Inspector Richard Burgess said a new dedicated "community problem solving team" is tackling issues as a "priority."

He added: "In the near future this will be augmented by a Police Now recruit who will be dedicated to resolving community issues in Parson Cross.

"Through dedicated operations we have already identified and apprehended a number of repeat offenders, which has in turn reduced the number of crimes."

Councillor Jayne Dunn, cabinet member for housing at Sheffield Council, said the authority is "working with the community, local groups, police and other partners" to provide "a range of activities and interventions for young people."