‘South Kirkby becoming a no-go area’: Town mayor’s stark warning to police chiefs over lack of officers

A town’s major warned senior police chiefs that residents feel ‘ruled by fear’ due to a lack of officers to deal with a spike in crime.
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A meeting heard South Kirkby had become blighted by teen gangs carrying knives, county lines drug dealing, anti-social behaviour and petty crime.

Senior officers and Alison Lowe, West Yorkshire deputy major for policing and crime, attended the public meeting in the former mining community to hear concerns.

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The event, held at The Grove Hall, was chaired by Lynne Whitehouse, mayor of South Kirkby and Moorthorpe Town Council.

A meeting heard South Kirkby had become blighted by teen gangs carrying knives, county lines drug dealing, anti-social behaviour and petty crime.A meeting heard South Kirkby had become blighted by teen gangs carrying knives, county lines drug dealing, anti-social behaviour and petty crime.
A meeting heard South Kirkby had become blighted by teen gangs carrying knives, county lines drug dealing, anti-social behaviour and petty crime.

Coun Whitehouse read out a list of issues which had been raised by residents.

She said: “Anti-social behaviour in general. Off-road biking, speeding cars, theft from shops, theft from houses.

“Car thefts from houses, a lack of police presence on streets – people have been saying this for quite a while.

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“Throwing missiles at cars and buses. Prevalence of drugs in the community, people openly dealing on the streets, increased arson by youngsters, teens not in school due to exclusion allowed to roam the streets.

Senior  officers and Alison Lowe, West Yorkshire deputy major for policing and crime, attended the public meeting in the former mining community to hear concerns.Senior  officers and Alison Lowe, West Yorkshire deputy major for policing and crime, attended the public meeting in the former mining community to hear concerns.
Senior officers and Alison Lowe, West Yorkshire deputy major for policing and crime, attended the public meeting in the former mining community to hear concerns.

“It is the way society has become. There is a lack of respect for anyone and anything.

“Teens carrying knives – we have had incidents where this has happened.

“It is becoming a no-go area around here.

“It is the whole of this area and we know who it is.

Alison Lowe , the deputy mayor for policing in West Yorkshire.Alison Lowe , the deputy mayor for policing in West Yorkshire.
Alison Lowe , the deputy mayor for policing in West Yorkshire.

“There is under-age selling of vapes and alcohol in the local convenience stores.

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“There is grooming of young people for county lines purposes.

“This is why the rates are falling elsewhere in big cities. They are coming in here as they know we are a deprived area.

“We are ruled by fear at the moment because nobody dare say anything.

“Nobody has got any recourse to get any action done about it.

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“We know who the people are and there has been no action taken on several occasions.

“The councillors have been having to deal with it because the police have not been able to come out.”

Chief Inspector Emma Hooks, neighbourhoods and partnerships lead for Wakefield district, said: “We do have response officers who assess threat and risk.

“Unfortunately we are limited with resources.

“However, we are moving them and flexing them across the different areas and making sure we are responding.

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“If you do know names of people who are drug dealing and which shops are selling, you need to feed those back into us so we can take those actions.

“We understand that sometimes you might not get the response that you are asking for at that point, but we do try to form our response around threat and risk.”

Coun Whitehouse added: “It is a very emotive topic right now.

“We, as a community, feel disgruntled and unsafe in our once-tight knit community and feel forgotten and abandoned.

“That seems to be common theme on the doorstep.”

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One resident asked how many officers were deployed in the area.

He said: “I have lived in the area all my life and we have got lots of problems.

“But one of the main problems is that we have not got enough support officers in our area.

“Years ago you used to see more police officers walking about. You don’t see them any more.

“That causes anti-social behaviour and everything else.”

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Insp Glenn Costello, who leads the neighbourhood police team for South Kirkby and South Elmsall and Hemsworth, replied: “I agree with you.

“I have worked around here for twenty odd years.

“When I first started we probably had twice as many police as we do now.

“That is entirely beyond my control, and yours, and everybody else sat around this table.”

Insp Costello said there had been a recent increase in the number of officers working in the area.

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He added: “I hope people understand that I can’t, and I won’t, give the exact number of staff that I have.

“That is not being evasive, or me trying to be clever.

“But if I said, for example, that I have got three staff, and a criminal sees three staff go out of the building he knows where they all are.

“So I won’t give specific numbers, but it has increased and it has continued to increase.

“There are issues in society that cannot solely be tackled by the police.

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“You are talking about social deprivation, poor education, poor welfare, poor health, poor job prospects – you name it.

“Unfortunately they are not all just police issues.”

Another resident said eggs and been thrown at his family home on seven occasions and he had been confronted in the street by around 20 youths.

He told the officers: “You are a joke to these young people.”

The officers reassured the man that they would look into his complaints.

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Ms Lowe encouraged authorities in the Wakefield district to become involved in the West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s immediate justice scheme.

The Mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracy Brabin, has secured £1m of funding to trial the initiative which includes working with young people to prevent crime and anti-social behaviour.

She said: “We haven’t had one referral from Wakefield.

“When kids are doing stuff at that level and it is irritating and frightening and doing your head in, you can refer them into this immediate justice pilot.

“What they get is a load of intensive work that hopefully will prevent them from going on to do worse stuff.

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“If those young people had been referred into the immediate justice, maybe you wouldn’t have got your house egged seven times.

“Maybe it would have been the first time and that support would have been put in place.

“There is a lot of work that you can do with young people to prevent them from becoming little gits. Which is obviously what has happened.

“There is a pathway that the mayor is funding, and it would be good if Wakefield would refer into that.

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“Kirklees has referred in 85. It is really working for Kirklees.”

Concerns were also raised about cars speeding through the town.

One resident said: “I have lived on Stockingate for 50 years, and in all that time I have seen one speed camera van.

“South Kirkby is on the outskirts of Wakefield and that’s the problem.

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“We are left on our own. But we have got to something or someone will get killed.”

The meeting was also told how there had been an arson attack in the market in recent days.

A charity worker said the area had been turned into a ‘war zone’ for local businesses and shoppers.

He said: “A lot of the time we can’t go on the market after 5pm. They are throwing bricks at my volunteers.

“It’s mayhem. I waited for an hour and 45 minutes and no police came. We were told officers were on the way and on one attended.”