A localised crime survey suggests alarmingly low levels of public confidence in the way policing is conducted in the rural communities to the west of Barnsley, despite efforts by the South Yorkshire force to improve resilience in that district.
The work was conducted by Coun Dave Griffin, who represents the rural Penistone West ward, as a follow up to previous surveys he has carried out in response to public concerns first raised after police officers and then PCSOs were pulled out of their base at Penistone police station and based miles away close to the centre of Barnsley.
Since then PCSOs and neighbourhood officers – re-introduced across the force after that element of policing was scrapped under an earlier regime – have been moved back to Penistone.
However, Coun Griffin has continued with his annual surveys in an attempt to monitor public confidence levels as accurately as possible on a local level and the reflect the impact policing changes may have had.
Questions in his survey were intended to follow those asked in a recently county-wide survey by Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings and the answers suggest a stark difference between attitudes towards policing in both Barnsley as a borough and in South Yorkshire’s rural communities.
Coun Griffin’s survey included answers from 360 people who responded, in age groups from 30s onwards, with all answers supplied online.
A higher percentage had been victims of crime in the previous 12 months than those featured in the PCC’s research, at 22 per cent compared to 11 per cent for the countywide statistics, and those who answered in the Penistone area were predominantly female.
However, the results show a huge disparity with the overall situation in the county.
When asked whether police understood the issues affecting their community, only 13 per cent answering Coun Griffin’s questions agreed, compared to 63 per cent for Barnsley as a whole and 60 per cent for the county’s rural communities.
In Barnsley, 53 per cent of those answering the PCC’s survey said they were fairly or very satisfied with the level of uniformed officers in their area, with rural communities recording a figure of 51 per cent.
For the Penistone district in Coun Griffin’s survey, that figure was only 6.5 per cent, however.
He now intends to present the results of his findings to Dr Billings and is hopeful it may help build a case for basing more neighbourhood officers in the area in future and using volunteers to staff an enquiry desk at Penistone police station, an idea which has been on the agenda for an extended period.
Coun Griffin said: “I cannot claim the answers are from all of the villages around Penistone, but there are representations from a good number of them.
“When I did my last survey, the main conclusion was that it would improve trust and confidence in the job police are doing if could have an enquiry desk, if only for part of the week.
“I fully understand that would probably need to be done by volunteers.
“I think the sergeant and their team are doing an excellent job. This (survey) is not an attempt to bash the police. They are working hard against austerity within the regime.
“I welcome the improvements the chief constable has made with things like Operation Duxford coming to Penistone.”
Duxford involves intensive policing to tackle major issues, with officers working against rural crime when it has operated in the Penistone area.
Coun Griffin said neighbourhood police numbers in Barnsley had increased enough to allow for a team to start working from Cudworth police station and was hopeful more officers could be allocated to the Penistone district as resources became available.