[Note: this is being re-published as part of my NCTJ portfolio submission.]
Drug dealing, drug use and gang-culture are growing in Sharrow, local activists are claiming.
Councillor Alison Teal, of the Green Party, represents Nether Edge and Sharrow. She has been campaigning to make the area safer. “There’s a bit of a gang war at the moment,” said Ms. Teal. “There’s a Pakistani gang in Sharrow and a Somali gang in Broomhall and they’re apparently in a war about being able to sell drugs in each other’s area.”
She claims that Sharrow is suffering more and more as social issues are passed on from the city centre. “The theory and the likelihood is that the city centre has a bit more policing and more Community Support Officers and they’re driving the problem to the next suburb,” she said. “So a lot of drug users are coming to Sharrow.”
“The problem has been displaced from the city centre to here and people think it’s getting worse and worse.”
Sahira Irshad, chair of community group, Mums United, presented a petition for more CCTV in the Sharrow area to Sheffield City Council this week. Mums United hope new cameras can act as a deterrent to growing gang and drugs issues in the area.
Irshad described the worsening situation in Sharrow, claiming young people are increasingly used as ‘runners’ for larger drug-dealing operations.
“It’s really frustrating because there is a drug problem in this area and no one seems to want to address it,” said the campaigner.
Councillor Teal believes tensions in the area are reaching new heights, as members of the community feel unable to speak to the police amid gang warfare and the continuing sales of drugs in the area.
While drugs are a growing issue in Sharrow, they are also a source of income for some low-income groups and families.
“People are really upset about the drug use, but also at the same time a lot of members of the community are involved in the sale of drugs and profiting from drugs,” said the Green Councillor.
Drugs are supplementing meagre incomes in Sharrow and the problem is very much embedded in the community as a result. The presence of drugs and drug dealers in communities makes it harder for people to speak out against them.
“The police have complained for a long time that they can’t get the community to give them information,” said Ms. Teal. “Some of the residents commented today that they weren’t happy having their names in the media for fear of any kind of reprisals”.
For many Sharrow residents it is a growing threat to the communities’ children and young people that shows things have gone too far.
“They are noticing an increased amount of drug paraphernalia and nitrous oxide canisters. There are discarded needles all over the place,” said Alison Teal. “They’re worried about young children picking them up.”
“There’s a lot of hard-line drug addicts within the Lansdowne Estate flats,” said Sahira Irshad “They’re leaving needles around.
“Where they’re throwing them is very near a football pitch and near where the playground is. It’s dangerous. Any child can pick them up.”