The so-called Pitsmoor Shotta Boys, who originate from Sheffield but have infiltrated communities such as Goldthorpe and Bolton-upon-Dearne, were targeted by South Yorkshire Police’s new violent crime tasking force earlier this week.
The team has been funded through a £2.5m Home Office grant after bosses argued that something needed to be done to stop armed gangs - whose members are said to be behind rising drug-related reports - from recruiting vulnerable youngsters in order to peddle substances in deprived areas.
Detective Inspector Steve Smith told the Chronicle that the tasking force, which comprised of three sergeants and 21 PCs during this week’s clampdown, were determined to stop gang-related activity.
“PSB (Pitsmoor Shotta Boys) are well-known, their activity is illegal and we won’t tolerate it as they bring misery to the communities which they have targeted,” he added.
“Unfortunately communities on the Barnsley and Rotherham border are close together and it’s these areas which have seen members dispersed.
“The current problems in Barnsley relate to Bolton-upon-Dearne and Goldthorpe, so that’s where our team of officers have been during the crackdown.
“PSB is a group which has gained a foothold in communities and it’s our job to stop that from happening, by either dissuading young gang members or dismantling what remains.”
Det Insp Smith revealed a 17-year-old, who cannot be identified due to his age, was found with a live firearm during a stop and search last week, something he says is a prime example of youngsters being involved in serious crime.
“It’s important to say incidents are on the decline and our work is having an impact, but it’d be foolish to be complacent,” he added. “Gangs operate 24 hours a day and we need to match that.
“The ages range from teenagers to adults but we see the younger members - who are often vulnerable - in essence being exploited to do the dirty work.
“However, we have had tremendous support from the public and police visibility gives them both confidence and protection when they see us.
“The message from us to gang members is clear - they’ll get fed up before we do.”
Eight organised crime groups remain on Barnsley officers’ radars after almost 1,000 reports of violent crime were reported across the town in 2018, police figures show, leading to Operation Armenia and Operation Fortify - both of which target gangs and those involved in the supply of drugs - to be launched.
Earlier the month, Barnsley Council’s ruling cabinet members also approved the local authority’s participation in a multi-agency initiative aimed at addressing child criminal exploitation, due to the town’s high number of looked-after children, of which there are an estimated 200.
A new police report, which discusses what’s being done locally to solve issues with gangs, said: “All of Barnsley’s organised crime groups are managed by our neighbourhood policing teams, who are working with our communities to identify and disrupt those that cause the most harm through organised criminality.
“Community intelligence is integral to our joint local partnership approach around disruption and enforcement, ensuring that through our collaborative strength we take every available opportunity to disrupt and dismantle organised crime.
“Every mapped group is subject to weekly neighbourhood enforcement and monthly tactical meetings ensure that those posing the greater threats have the appropriate resourcing and response, ranging from the targeting of street-level drug dealing through to fraud targeting the elderly.”
If you have any information or concerns relating to gang-related crime, call 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.