RISING cases of organised crime groups operating out of rundown streets in Barnsley have led the government to commission a review into the issue.
The probe will be led by Sir Craig Mackey, a former deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan police force and a report – which looks into county lines, human trafficking and drugs – will be published in the spring.
According to South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings, the study will look at the powers, capabilities, governance and funding of the response to serious organised crime on the part of the National Crime
Agency, the police and regional organised crime units.
Eight organised crime groups, referred to as OCGs by police, have been identified in Barnsley, a report says.
OCGs are said to be on the rise across South Yorkshire, and officers are working towards eradicating gangs in the county due to the damaging impact they have had on communities.
Although further groups have been identified in Barnsley, it’s thought a large percentage remain inactive and the focus has been placed on active members who have been predominantly involved with the supply of drugs in areas such as Goldthorpe.
Dr Alan Billings said: “I welcome this review and believe it is long overdue.
“It has taken the government a long time to realise that the years of austerity – when police officer numbers were savagely cut back – gave the criminal gangs opportunities to expand their activity.
“Modern crime gangs will ruthlessly exploit vulnerable people. The review recognises that organised crime crosses boundaries at every level – local, regional and national – and we must ensure that the response is able to deal with this.
“South Yorkshire Police has a good record of dealing with organised crime gangs and is very proactive targeting and disrupting their activities.
“However, it is not enough to tackle the gangs after the event. We need more and more to get upstream of crime and prevent people being drawn into gangs in the first place.
“This is what our newly-established violence reduction unit will help us to do.”
One gang – the so-called Pitsmoor Shotta Boys – originated in Sheffield but took hold in Goldthorpe and Bolton-upon-Dearne after several members were rehoused there, leading the surrounding areas to be swamped with drugs, police say.
“If serious crime is to be reduced we need to tackle not only those who are committing crimes now but also find ways of steering people away from crime in the first place,” Dr Billings added.
“Together we will identify and support projects that will stop people, especially young people, getting involved in crime in the first place or enable them to break with crime if they are already offending.”