PCC Blog 105

Speeding remains a matter of overriding concern of South Yorkshire residents if my emails are anything to go by.

It shot up the list during the periods of lock-downs even though that had led to working from home and, for a time at least, far fewer vehicles on the road. But when people were at home, they became more aware of the traffic in their village or down their street while those who were still travelling, faced with relatively empty roads, put their foot down and increased their speed.

As people became more speed conscious they have been asking for more enforcement activity by the police. As a result, in the current Police and Crime Plan, I am asking them to do more about speeding (and road safety in general). One part of that is the re-introduction of community speed-watch.

So what is happening?

There is enforcement activity going on all the time. The trouble is, there are never enough resources to send officers to every village and every street that wants some form of action all the time. Scarce resources have to be moved around the districts.

But last week I came across a good example of a local police initiative in the Crookes, Crosspool, Walkley and Hillsborough areas of Sheffield. Two neighbourhood police teams combined for a Speed Check Operation focused on those roads where the community had expressed concern. Vehicles that were travelling at speeds over 30mph were stopped. The vehicle and documents were checked and in some cases advice was offered – which was generally well received. Some passing residents who were curious to know what was happening were shown how the speed cameras worked.

Altogether, 45 vehicles were stopped. The more marginal infringements resulted in a warning letter being sent. One vehicle was stopped and searched for drugs. Some drivers were issued with Traffic Offence Reports. While most of the speeding was somewhere in the mid 30s, one driver was travelling at over 50mph – in a residential area with pedestrians and cyclists and other motorists!

We thank the NW neighbourhood teams for their initiative and know that they are planning to repeat the operation when time and resources allow in the future. I hope others will follow suit.

We can’t say we have not been warned.

Life changing

Last week I spoke at the launch of a significant, though modest, new project called Level Up. I am not sure whether there is anything equivalent to this anywhere else in the country and I shall be interested to see in about a year’s time what it has achieved.

Briefly, since the start of the pandemic, the Home Office have seen an increase in the number of parents and carers who are struggling with children and adolescents who are abusive and even violent towards them. Some 70% of social work practitioners, apparently, have reported an increase in referrals to them for this reason.

We know that these attitudes and behaviours are likely to persist into adulthood and may even become more pronounced if they are not challenged. Yet changing them is not easy. If children do not listen to their parents or respect them, who can help? When we look at the range of interventions we currently have in the county, there is a gap here.

The Home Office offered funding for programmes that work with children and we have secured funding for a one year project. The organisation that delivers our programme to change the behaviour of adults who perpetrate domestic abuse, Cranstoun, will also deliver the Level Up project. They will work on a one-to-one basis with those aged 11-15 and seek to address their violence and aggression – their abuse of parents/carers or siblings in intimate settings.

It is a sad reflection of the times that such programmes are even thought necessary. But for the sake of the children, the families and eventually wider society, we must try to find a way of changing their abusive behaviours now. Otherwise we know – the police know – where their lives are headed.

Being Inspired

On a very different note, it was a great pleasure last week to meet with some of those retired and serving police officers and other volunteers who help, in their own time, with a police sponsored project called Inspiring Youth Award. They work with young people aged 13-17 from participating schools. Many of the students come from some of our more deprived communities. We were meeting in the Winter Green, Waverley, Rotherham, to thank them for their commitment over these past two challenging years.

I was asked to make two presentations. The first was to David Green MBE, a retired officer with 51 years of service to the police and to Bill Thomas, the first black officer with the police in South Yorkshire, who has over 40 years of service. Both have given 18 years of voluntary help to the Inspiring Youth Award project.

The young people who join the project work towards the completion of a folder which records their achievements through the year – in school, in the home and in the community. This can be in the form of photographs, pieces of writing, letters, and so on. They also have a chance to see aspects of policing – such as the mounted division and the dogs – and to meet the chief constable and the police and crime commissioner (!) at police force headquarters. In past years some have been to the Crown Court to take part in a mock trial with judges. Others have travelled to London to 10 Downing Street, and some have met the Home Secretary and local MPs in Parliament.

At the end of the year, those who complete their folder are invited with their parents/guardians to a very spectacular awards evening at St Paul’s Hotel in Sheffield. They are given a certificate by the chief constable; trophies are given to the top performing schools and the evening ends with a meal. I am always amazed by the care the young people take to dress well on these occasions, and their parents are clearly full of pride.

For many of those taking part, the project opens up for them all sorts of possibilities for their future that they might never have considered before, not least jobs in the police and justice system. I have also been moved many times when young people or parents have said they had never been in a hotel before or to an occasion like that.

Inspiring Youth needs new volunteers to help – anyone with a passion to work with young people and to see them grow in confidence and their horizons expand. If you might be interested contact the organiser, Bobby Dev, direct: [email protected]. Or contact my office.

This is what one young person wrote about the project:

Taking part in this project has changed my life a lot. Before this I was quite an introverted person with not a lot of confidence. I didn’t have many friends and couldn’t socialise well with people. 9 months later I am a different person. You always hear the negative side of the police and rarely the positive. However, on a personal opinion, I believe the police are here to change people’s lives for the better and that’s what you have done for me. So thank you so much.

Kieran, Firth Park Academy

Young people are inspired by this project. In turn I am inspired by what they all achieve and by those who volunteer to help them.


When all else fails the government seems to rely on the military to get things done. It did so during the coronavirus crisis, calling in the army to help build a Nightingale hospital in a matter of weeks and to help get the vaccines out. Recently, General Sir Gordon Messenger, a distinguished former Royal Marine, was asked to lead a review of the NHS and social care.

I can see the attraction. Army officers combine strategic thinking – what are we trying to achieve in the long term – with the practical judgements that are needed day to day to make things happen. They are as a result very pragmatic. When you are involved in conflict, if something is not working, you stop and change tack. You cannot afford to go on with an action that is getting nowhere and may be putting lives at risk. And that requires a certain courage.

If the government is struggling to find new leadership for the Met police, these are the qualities they should be looking for: strategic thinking combined with practical realism including the ability to stop and change when things are not working.

If they are tempted to look outside policing, one can see where they might go,

Stay safe and well.