ALMOST half of Barnsley residents taking part in a police survey believe local crime levels have increased in the last 18 months - despite more officers working to reduce incidents across the borough.

According to a police report, 46 per cent said overall crime - which includes antisocial behaviour - had gone up and just 41 per cent were aware that they had a localised policing team responsible for their area.

The findings - revealed by Chief Superintendent Sarah Poolman - were gathered through a study carried out by South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings.

Official police figures show incidents have reduced over the period, although a spike was seen during the first weeks of the coronavirus lockdown spell from March onwards.

Barnsley now has seven policing teams, each based on the town’s area councils’ districts, with officers’ hubs in the town centre, Cudworth, Goldthorpe, Hoyland, Kendray, Penistone and Royston.

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The report said: “Barnsley remains at the forefront of neighbourhood policing via its multi-agency teams and Safer Neighbourhood Service (SNS) model.

“While the local teams focus on understanding and tackling local priorities, the SNS seeks to deal holistically with people with complex and multiple needs that lead to increased demand on the police and other agencies.

“Despite their differences, both rely on a partnership problem-solving approach to deliver on key elements of our plan - to protect the vulnerable, prevent crime and harm and tackle crime and antisocial behaviour.

“Our teams have been in existence for three years, with additional

investment made in the number of police officers in both 2019 and 2020 and the final footprint of the teams to match the area council model achieved in February.

“At the beginning of the year, a survey was conducted with members of the public to gain their perceptions of policing in their local neighbourhoods following the reintroduction of local neighbourhood policing teams by South Yorkshire Police.

“Although there is clearly more work to be done, particularly around perceptions of crime, this survey gives positive indications of the impact neighbourhood policing is having on local communities.”

It comes after South Yorkshire Police axed its former structure in a bid to slash £8.1m from the budget in 2015 - a widely criticised decision which saw bobbies being taken out of the communities they knew and moved to Wombwell.

But a U-turn was performed following the backlash and an initial four hubs - in Barnsley town centre, Goldthorpe, Kendray and Royston - began operating in 2017, joined by officers based at Cudworth and Penistone in 2018 and Hoyland later.

With additional officers working at core times with a ‘proactive preventative approach’, bosses now hope to see a reduction in crime and deliver a higher level of service to communities, tackling long-standing issues such as burglary and antisocial behaviour.

Chf Supt Poolman added: “The town’s policing is in a really positive position and the reopening of stations are the final stepping stones.

“The picture is positive across the board in the borough as there’s been investment, and this year represents a continuation of that.

“We’re aligning our services alongside Barnsley Council and the work residents will see will be done in partnership.”