OFFICIAL burglary figures released for Barnsley have been criticised by residents for ‘not being a true reflection’ of what has happened.

According to the statistics which were released on Tuesday, police recorded a 16 per cent reduction in 2018/19, a period which runs from April 2018 to March 2019.

However, residents in worst-hit areas such as Shafton have blamed 101 – the police’s under-fire telephone reporting system – as being responsible for the ‘inaccurate’ figures due to long waiting times encountered by callers reporting burglaries.

Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, attended a public meeting in Shafton at the end of November to allay concerns about a claimed lack of police presence being responsible for the claimed burglary spree.

Dave North, chairman of Shafton Parish Council, said: “If there’s police presence it automatically deters burglars from even trying, but we haven’t had that and there’s a sense that it is the main reason.

“The summer was particularly bad and there’s genuine concern as Shafton has a lot of elderly residents. The 101 issues is something that’s always brought up at crime meetings.”

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 1,411 residential burglaries took place in 2018 in Barnsley, while a further 646 incidents of business-related offences took the total figure to 2,057, but their figures for 2019 are due to be revealed in the spring.

Parish councillor Les Holt said it was a ‘total disgrace’ and blamed delayed pick-up times associated with 101 – a system which South Yorkshire Police say receives more than 2,000 calls per day.

“People give up waiting to speak to a 101 operator because they are left on hold for 30 minutes, sometimes even longer,” Les added.

“There are a lot of frightened, elderly and vulnerable people in our village who can’t report crime. They trust PCSOs and waiting 30 minutes to speak to an operator after they have been a victim of crime is unacceptable.”

The force said it is treating burglary as one of its top priorities this year, which has seen officers increase their patrols in worst-hit areas such as Shafton, Mapplewell and Royston.

“Key crime types such as house burglary reduced by 16 per cent in 2018/19 and this position has been maintained through 2019,” Chief Superintendent Sarah Poolman said.

“Throughout 2019, across all realms of policing, our objective has been to continually improve the service we provide to our communities and to keep Barnsley safe.

“Our response times to incidents have improved dramatically, meaning we are getting to those who need us more quickly.

“Through further investment in our neighbourhood teams, we have been tackling those issues that matter most to our local communities.”