Community feature: Darnall residents call for action to tackle fly-tipping, street drinking and drug dealing in their neighbourhood
South Yorkshire Police is returning to a more traditional neighbourhood policing model that should see more bobbies back on the beat.
And it can't come soon enough for some fed-up residents in Darnall.
Residents living in and around Darnall Road - one of the main routes through the eastern Sheffield suburb - highlighted a wide range of crime and disorder issues as being rife in the area.
And the statistics back up their claims.
Police figures show 221 crimes were reported in and around Darnall in November last year - the most recent numbers available - with general anti-social behaviour accounting for 60 of these incidents.
With police pledging to get back out into our communities, Darnall residents are calling for bobbies and their partners in the council to make their neighbourhood a top priority.
They gave officers a list of urgent issues to tackle:-
*Clamp down on fly-tipping
*Increase patrols on an evening
*Tackle street drinking and drug dealing
*Reduce burglaries, and
*Organise more activities for young people.
Residents highlighted how several derelict buildings along Darnall Road, and in particular behind the old Salvation Army Hall, have become strewn with litter in recent months.
During a visit to the area, The Star noted several discarded mattresses, children's play equipment and suitcases discarded in bushes behind the building.
While Sheffield Council has fenced off the site and put up signs warning fly-tippers they face harsh fines, residents said more should be done.
Hussain Kheili, who owns Quix News, described the litter problem as 'rife' and added that bags of litter are often dumped outside his shop.
He said: "Most days I come to work and there is a bin liner full of rubbish outside. It is bad all over. There are some people that are just dirty."
The shopkeeper called for the council to put up extra signs warning people of the consequences and added: "When they pick up their benefits they should be told you wont get any money if you litter."
Darnall Drive resident Daniel Howard said vandals have targeted his house a number of occasions.
The 22-year-old added: "Our windows have been put through a few times. Vandalism is definitely a problem but you hardly ever see police up here."
A neighbour, who has lived in the area for more than 40 years but did not want to give his name for fear of reprisals, told how he was burgled twice a few years ago.
He added: "They took about Â£4000 worth of jewellery and ornaments. I've had to pay for CCTV cameras all around now.
"But aside from that I see groups near the Salvation Army drinking on the street and smoking drugs.
"They also deal drugs down the side of it where all the litter is. It's a disgrace.
"I've never noticed a big police presence here, so if they are coming back out it will be something new."
There has also been concerns about trespassers gaining entry to Darnall Fire Station, which closed down in 2015.
A group of so-called 'urban explorers' recently got into the site to take pictures of the decaying interior.
This prompted calls from councillors to urge the public to stay away from the building on health and safety grounds.
One of the urban explorers told how he and his mates turned to the potentially dangerous activity out of 'boredom', and bemoaned the lack of things to do in the community.
The 15-year-old, who did not want to be identified, said: "There are organised activities in youth clubs where you play games and stuff but they are sometimes not up our street.
"Something like an indoor skate park would be really cool."
The station was sold in November last year to a transport company in a sale believed to be worth around Â£500, 000.
While residents have every right to complain about crime and disorder in their streets, if you scratch beneath the surface in Darnall there are plenty of people trying to make the place better.
One beacon of hope is the Darnall Education Centre.
Since the 1990s, school kids of all different backgrounds have joined together to have fun at weekly youth club sessions.
The sessions, run by Sheffield Futures, give boys and girls aged 13 to 18 a safe place to hang out on Mondays and Wednesdays from 6pm to 8pm.
Those attending can enjoy everything from playing computer games and table tennis to card games and pool.
Viky Mercer, business development manager for Sheffield Futures, added that sessions also offer support in a lot of other ways - such as helping youngsters to prepare for the world of work.
She said: "Youth workers support young people with personal, social, health and economic related learning as and when the young people need the support. For example, a careers adviser from our community youth teams has attended a session when young people had requested support with job seeking and writing CVs."
Darnall councillor Mazher Iqbal urged youngsters not to enter derelict buildings and appealed for them to attend the wide range of organised youth activities instead.
He said: "Entering unsecured buildings is clearly a health and safety risk. Darnall has many youth activities already – it’s vibrant and great for young people. A youth club runs a number of nights during the week and its used by other community groups and a boxing club for young people.
"We also hold an community day at Woodbourn Road which brings our community together.”
Sheffield Police has recently been remodeled to put less focus on blue light response teams and more resources into community work.
The constabulary has been shaped into 10 neighbourhood teams, comprising of 10 sergeants, 50 police constables and more than 90 police community support officers. This includes a team covering Darnall.
Inspector Jason Booth, inspector for the Sheffield South East Neighbourhood Policing Team which covers Darnall, said: "Most recently we commissioned a survey which asked residents what mattered to them and what they would like to see us focusing on.
“It is these concerns, including antisocial behaviour, drug use and street, that we have been trying to concentrate on and since they were raised to us, we have set up ‘hot spot’ patrols to increase our visibility and provide reassurance.
“At a time where resources are tight, we are constantly looking at ways in which we can work with the community to improve the area and are continuing to develop links with local community groups.
“We also continue to work closely with our partner agencies, to tackle issues which do not sit with the police, such as noise nuisance, littering, fly tipping and parking on double yellow lines, which should be reported to Sheffield Council. During recent days of action carried out in the area, the local authority has also provided us with street wardens, who can prosecute for such offences."
He added that although he is "pleaded with progress" made so far in Darnall he accepted this is "just the start of the journey."
A Sheffield Council spokesperson said environmental health officers will be dispatched to the area to review the scale of the problem. The authority will also contact the owners of buildings on the road to 'get any necessary clean ups actioned'.
They warned fly-tipping is a criminal offence which has a maximum fine of Â£50, 000 and could land you up to 12 months’ imprisonment if convicted in a magistrates’ court.