Interview and photo by Fran Belbin
The Messenger interviewed Sergeant Lee Kayne, who leads the Burngreave Neighbourhood Police Team based at Sorby House on Spital Hill:
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’ve got 28 years of police service, mostly in CID, when I worked in Burngreave quite a lot, but in the last couple of years I’ve been in neighbourhood policing. I’m 47 years old with three children.
Since September you’ve reverted to a model of neighbourhood policing in Burngreave. What differences are people seeing on the streets?
The main difference is the visibility we’ve got here, it’s a uniformed presence that we’ve not seen for years. We’re getting a lot of feedback saying we’re not seeing the dealers in the streets like we were, people are feeling a lot safer.
There’s been a massive reduction in violence. The next thing is to move on from a phase of targeting organised criminals and urban street gangs, towards trying to build that neighbourhood structure that we’ve been missing.
There is still a lot of drug dealing going on in residential areas. People are calling 101 and don’t feel they’re getting enough response.
Because of the targeted work we’ve done, drug dealers have been displaced from public areas like the Vestry Hall. Street dealers are very low level, if we arrest them, they may have a couple of wraps on them, that’s possession only. If we do the work, we’ll find out where they’re hiding or who’s holding an amount of drugs with a bit more work, we’ll find out who’s delivering and we’ll be able to work up that chain. Back in 2016 we had a long-term operation on the Carwood estate. We took out a significant amount of drugs as part of Operation Duxford and that had a massive impact.
When the public ring us, we never ignore it, it adds to an intelligence picture. Two young people in hoodies exchanging a package, might look like drug dealing, but it’s not evidence for court. We need to know are they going to a particular house? Is there a particular car that keeps turning up? Even a partial registration is useful to help us identify people. But every call we get from the public is valued, we can’t do anything unless we get information. So please, keep reporting.
101 calls can take a long time to be answered, what happens when people report online, is that dealt with the same way?
Yes, once you report online it’s registered as an incident and incidents are looked at every day. 101 is being looked at, I know management want to improve it. We’d like to call back on every incident report received but at busy times we’re struggling to deal with 999 calls.
What effects have cuts had on you?
What we have to do now is risk assess – there’s a sliding scale of threat and harm risk. People ring about things that are very important to them but there are riskier things that we need to attend. We’ve lost roughly a third of our operational uniformed police, as well as support staff – but the workload doesn’t go away. But the police don’t say no.
I’ll give you an example – you’ve got noisy neighbours, you’re sick and tired of it, so you ring 101. In fact it’s a Sheffield City Council issue, but it might develop into a breach of the peace or other offences, so we send an officer out.
Does partnership working help to address some of those issues, like fly tipping, that are the responsibility of the Council?
Over the last 18 months there have been a lot more Community Protection Notices given to landowners as a warning we will take action. There’s an area down at Handley Street being used as a needle deposit, in sight of a nursery that was causing a lot of distress.” We worked with the Council and issued CPNs to stop it. That work has started, it can always improve.
What work are you doing with young people? How do you deal with kids who are under pressure to carry knives or involved with low level drug dealing?
In years gone by when a young person was involved in serious offences, the parents have said “How come I didn’t know?” So one thing we do is send a letter to the parents asking if they realise the child is at risk of being involved in a gang or anti-social behaviour.
We refer to the community youth team who do outreach work, we’re involved with All Saints youth club. We talk to youths on the streets, for instance suppliers outside the Vestry Hall. We try to break down those barriers. Sometimes you can’t – one guy I knew had an opportunity to play for Sheffield United, but chose to go committing car crime with his mates.
We have school liaison officers – the earlier you instil messages about knives or gangs, the better. I went to one conference where ex-gang members said you need to talk to children when they’re between three and seven. We need that element of mutual respect. Kids might do something daft, but we will try to support them through the early stages of making mistakes. We don’t want to criminalise them, we want to educate them.
We’re heavily involved in some Police and Crime Commissioner funded projects for diversionary activities. It’s not a quick process unfortunately, but if you’ve got an idea and we can help, contact myself or your Police Community Support Officer, we’re more than happy to support you.