VIDEO: Regaining South Yorkshire public's trust key to making neighbourhood policing model work

A masterplan to put bobbies back on the beat and tackle the root causes of crime will only be a success if police regain the trust of the public.

That was the key message from the latest Star Roundtable event today in which top cops, council chiefs and community leaders gathered to discuss how we can release crime-riddled neighbourhoods from the grip of criminal gangs.

The Star Roundtable discussion.

The Star Roundtable discussion.

The debate centered around the impact of South Yorkshire Police's new neighbourhood policing model.

Top cops accepted that police had lost touch with communities under the previous structure, which had a focus on pulling bobbies off the beat and putting them into response cars to respond to incidents.

Under the new system, officers will be tasked with getting back out onto the streets to tackle problems early - effectively nipping them in the bud - before they escalate into major issues that blight communities.

Chief superintendent Shaun Morley, the current district commander for Sheffield who will soon be switching to cover the Doncaster patch, said gaining the community's confidence again is key to the masterplan's success.

(l-r) chief superintendent Shaun Morley, coun Peter Price, Maxine Stavrianakos, of Sheffield Council, coun Bob Pullin and chief superintendent Stuart Barton.

(l-r) chief superintendent Shaun Morley, coun Peter Price, Maxine Stavrianakos, of Sheffield Council, coun Bob Pullin and chief superintendent Stuart Barton.

He said: "Reducing neighbourhood policing was clearly a mistake and the chief constable has recognised this.

"The old reactive model did not address the community issues.

"The fundamental building block to policing more efficiently is building trust with the public. If we do that, we will have an effective police service."

He said reducing community policing focus was borne out of Government-imposed budget cuts totalling around £73 million over the last five years.

Chief superintendents Shaun Morley and Stuart Barton.

Chief superintendents Shaun Morley and Stuart Barton.

But the new system has seen Sheffield's constabulary remodeled into 10 neighbourhood teams, comprising of 10 sergeants, 50 police constables and more than 90 police community support officers.

Police will also be working more closely with partner agencies such as the council, community groups, housing and immigration officers.

About half of the teams went operational in September, and the other half have just changed over this month.

Burngreave was highlighted as an early success story.

A man was shot and another stabbed during clashes between Kurdish and Somalian gangs engaged in a suspected turf battle over drugs last June.

Following the unrest a dedicated police team - consisting of a sergeant and four police constables - moved into Sorby House in the heart of the community.

Chief supt Morley said officers organised meetings with Imams to discuss the issue which has led to an easing of tensions.

He added: "In this community the mosque plays a significant role. So by engaging with Imams we can gain residents' confidence more effectively and increase our intelligence in return. This is where it has worked so far."

The meeting heard that having representatives from partner agencies all in one place has also helped.

In cases where a particular family or individual is repeatedly causing problems, the neighbourhood teams will provide help with such things as getting kids back into school and providing advice on better parenting.

Maxine Stavrianakos, head of neighbourhood intervention and tenant support for Sheffield Council, said: "There is already a feelgood factor just by having everyone under the same roof.

"The public knows where they can get all the services locally, and we can work more closely together with police."

The panel accepted however that the public may need some patience in terms of seeing results as the model is designed for long-term solutions rather than providing a short-term fix.

Both Shiregreen and Brightside councillor Peter Price and Bob Pullin, ward member for Beauchief and Greenhill, said there are many challenges ahead.

They believe more work needs to be done to engage with immigrant communities and young people.

Coun Price described how misunderstandings around cultural differences had led to problems in his neighbourhood.

He said: "People from the Roma community often like to stand about on the street talking. They are not doing anything wrong, but if you don't know this then it can be quite intimidating.

"But we have got them involved in a boxing club at the Grimesthorpe Family Centre and that has helped to break down barriers. It teaches self-discipline and respect, and as a result we have organised litter picks and other community events."

Coun Pullin, a former youth magistrate who has recently helped to set up a Parkour centre for young people, added that working with families at the 'earliest possible opportunity' is key.

He said: "I would like to see PCSOs and health workers at pre-school and mother and toddler groups so they can promote that good parenting and crime prevention message early on."

Aside from regaining confidence in the public, police highlighted immediate priorities as tackling widespread low level anti-social behaviour, and in particular nuisance off road motorbikes, that bight communities.

Chef supt Morley admitted the 'reactive focused model' under the old system had led to a resurgence in nuisance behaviour.

He added: "Larger problems often grow out of smaller issues. If we can prevent issues in the first place before they become more serious then that is the way forward."

Chef supt Morley will soon be taking charge of Doncaster Police and is handing the reins over for Sheffield to chief supt Stuart Barton who will become the new district commander for the city.

Chief supt Barton, who is moving over the Pennines after 27 years with Greater Manchester Police, accepted he faces a big task in making the new model work.

He said: "I understand the size of the challenge but I have only seen positive vibes so far. I am confident we can make it a success."