NEWS: West Midlands Crime Commissioner celebrates ‘fantastic job’ by Erdington Street Pastors

Words & pics by Ed King

On Saturday 13 November, the Erdington Street Pastors were joined on their morning patrol by West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Foster – walking with the team up and down Erdington High Street.

Celebrating the efforts of the Street Pastors, Simon Foster told Erdington Local: “My message to the Street Pastors is that they’re doing a fantastic job on Erdington High Street.

“I think it’s a brilliant initiative and I’ve been very pleased to support it as Police and Crime Commissioner.

“It really does help the neighbourhood police teams; helping them prevent crime, protect people, and ensuring that vulnerable people are kept safe.”

Erdington MP Jack Dromey, who also joined the Street Pastors and Simon Foster on patrol and talking to people on Erdington High Street, added: “The Street Pastors reassure the local community that the High Street is a welcoming place that they can go to.

“As Simon (Foster) has said, they reach to and put their arms around sometimes some of the most vulnerable in our community who have fallen through the net and as a consequence of which sometime behave badly.”

A global initiative, Street Pastors are currently active in over 240 cities and town across the UK – including 20 in the West Midlands alone. Twelve Street Pastors have been patrolling Erdington High Street since their ‘commissioning’ on Saturday 18 September.

Working with the police and local community leaders/groups, the Street Pastors help tackle issues around anti-social behaviour and public disturbances, whilst offering a friendly face for anyone who needs help or just wants to talk.

Pastor Rasaq Ibrahim is lead pastor at the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) in Erdington and Chair of the Erdington Street Pastors, who joined with churches across Erdington to bring the inititive to the area.

An active Street Pastor himself, Pastor Rasaq led the Saturday morning team on patrol with Simon Foster and Joack Dromey. He told Erdington Local: “It’s greta to have Simon (Foster) join us on patrol in Erdington, he has been humbly walking with us for two hours – meeting popel and seeing what we do.

“Erdington Street Pastor have been well supported by the West Midlands Crime Commissioner’s office and we look forward to building on that partnership.”

But since 2010 the West Midlands has had £175m pulled from its policing budget, seeing a drop of over 2000 police officers – around 25% of those in active service, and over 50% allocated to community policing..

Recently re-elected as Police and Crime Commissioner for the region, Simon Foster has put this top of his agenda.

He added: “My key campaign pledge is to rebuild community policing in the West Midlands because I think dismantling it was a big mistake; it was counterproductive, it’s a false economy

“It’s really important that we have community initiatives like the Street Pastors, like Neighbourhood Watch, like Street Watch, Speed Watch, Street Wardens, all of those different projects play a really important role in providing that help, reassurance, and support to local communities.”

A very real concern for many across Erdington, Jack Dromey has been hearing about street safety from local residents during sessions at his surgery.

He explained: “If you lose 2000 police officers, if you lose so much of the social fabric that diverts young people from crime, what you see as day follows night is a rising crime and that’s wrong.

“Time, and time, and time again I get people who come to my surgery – people I’ve met today on the High Street here with Simon (Foster) – who say, at the most extreme, we’re afraid to go out at night, we no longer feel comfortable in our community, on our High Street. That is absolutely and fundamentally wrong.”

For more information about the Erdington Street Pastors and to see if you can get involved email Pastor Rasaq at chair.erdington@streetpastors.org.uk

For more on the Street Pastors initiative visit www.streetpastors.org

NEWS: Erdington Street Pastors are now on patrol

Words by Adam Smith

The first Street Pastors were commissioned this week, with a ceremony taking on Saturday 18 September. The uniformed support workers are set to become familiar faces in Erdington patrolling the High Street.

The outdoor commissioning ceremony was held near Costa Coffee, where 12 volunteers from local churches were given the relevant powers by The Ascension Trust to become Street Pastors.

First launched in 2003 in Brixton there are now 240 towns and high streets in the UK where The Ascention Trust have trained volunteers to provide a reassuring presence during the day and night.

Erdington MP Jack Dromey and Assistant West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner Tom McNeil attended the service.

Erdington Street Pastors chairman Rasaq Ibrahim told Erdington Local: “This has been a journey of ten months to get to this point.

“We had a target of 20 pastors to start with but at the moment we have 12. We will be recruiting more in October and I urge anyone who believes they could be a street pastor to get in touch.

“Eventually we hope to patrol the High Street every day but for now we can only do twice a week, Mondays and Saturdays for a few hours at a time.”

He added: “We will engage with everyone on the High Street, no matter their race or religion, we want to be recognisable and be there to help people who need help.”

Mel Taylor, from Six Ways Baptist Church, was commissioned as a Street Pastor and is looking forward to starting his role.

He said: “I have lived in Erdington for a long while and have seen the difference food banks have made so I wanted to get involved.

“Through the foodbank I have got to see the problems local people face and I think being a Street Pastor will help me help others.”

Erdington MP Jack Dromey believes the new Street Pastors will make a difference to the High Street.

He said: “The High Street has been in decline for years and the launch of Street Pastors initiative is a landmark.

“What we badly need is local people, from the churches, patrolling the High Street combating crime and anti-social behaviour but also reaching out to the vulnerable.

“I think it is an outstanding initiative and will hopefully go some way to tackle people who are causing problems for the High Street.”

He added: “The Street Pastors along with the investment we hopefuly will get from the Levelling Up fund will make a huge difference to Erdington High Street.”

Assistant West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner Tom McNeil spoke to the Street Pastors and members of the public on the High Street.

He said: “We support the Street Pastors and are very grateful for the work they will be doing.

“The PCC Simon Foster is very aware of this project and is happy to be funding it and he has said he will go out with the Street Pastors as soon as is possible.

“The kind of work Erdington Street Pastors will be doing is so important because people will respond to them as they will know they are coming from a place of compassion, and they will be part of the community.

“The privilege is ours and we look forward to working with the Street Pastors in the future.”

If you believe you could be a Street Pastor email chair.erdington@streetpastors.org.uk and for more information – or visit www.ascensiontrust.org/street-pastors

NEWS: Erdington Street Pastors take to the streets with official ‘commissioning’ ceremony

Words by Ed King

Erdington will the see the ‘commissioning’ of twelve Street Pastors on Saturday 18 September, at a public event taking place outside Costa Coffee on the High Street from 11am.

From Saturday onward a dozen Street Pastors will be patrolling the streets of Erdington, after being officially welcomed into the community during a ceremony from the nationwide Ascension Trust  – who pioneered the original Street Pastors project in 2003 in London.

Working with the police and local community leaders/groups, the Street Pastors will be helping to tackle issues around anti-social behaviour and public disturbances, whilst offering a friendly face for anyone who needs help or just wants to talk.

A global initiative, Street Pastors are working in communities across the world – with teams active in over 240 cities and town across the UK, including 20 in the West Midlands alone.

Recruitment is also already underway for more volunteers, with plans to train a further 20 Street Pastors from October – who will be active across Erdington in groups of twos and threes from November 2021.

Speaking at the commissioning event for the first twelve Erdington Street Pastors on Saturday 18 September will be the West Midlands Assistant Police Crime Commissioner, Tom McNeil, who will be making the keynote speech to welcome the initial team.

Also addressing both the public and Street Pastors will be MP for Erdington Jack Dromey, Pastor Rasaq Ibrahim from the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), and a selected group of civic and Church leaders.

Pastor Rasaq is the Chair of the management committee for the Erdington Streets Pastors project.

Pastor Rasaq told Erdington Local: “The Erdington Street Pastors are a chance for the Church to get out onto the streets – to help, listen to, and care for the people of Erdington. They will be there to offer support to everyone, no matter what faith or background the Street Pastors will be there to help.

“Erdington has seen an increase in crime an anti-social behaviour and the Street Pastors will be working with the police to tackle these ills in our community.

“There are Street Pastors working in cities and community across the world, and they have been proven to help reduce crime and increase support for the community.

“The Street Pastors are going to give people in Erdington another layer of support and will be a visible helping hand on the High Street and further across the constituency.

“Anyone looking to join the Erdington Street Pastors should get in touch – we offer full training and support, taking in new recruits from October.”

For more information about the Erdington Street Pastors and to see if you can get involved email Pastor Rasaq at chair.erdington@streetpastors.org.uk

COURT REPORT: Coton Lane hit and run murderer, Tony Green, sentenced to 20 years behind bars – report from the courtroom

Words by Adam Smith / Crime scene pics by Ed King, profile pic & video courstesy of West Midlands Police

Tony Green has been sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 20 years for murdering Shkelzen Taka outside an Erdington brothel in the early hours of Boxing Day morning.

The entire incident was captured on CCTV and West Midlands Police have released harrowing footage of the final moments of Mr Taka’s life – which helped the jury convict Green of murder.

At Birmingham Crown Court this morning Judge Melbourne Inman told 27-year-old Green, of Suffield Grove, he had used his car as a “lethal weapon” to kill Mr Taka who sustained catastrophic head injuries when a road sign Green’s car crashed into landed on his head.

Judge Inman said: “The injuries caused to Mr Taka were truly horrific. The pole struck him with such force it split his head into two. His brain was recovered separately.

“You continued to drive over him in reverse and back over him to get away. You drove away.”

The court heard Green and Taka, 28, had exchanged brief words outside Ayurveda Health Spa Sauna, Coton Lane, at around 6am as Green was leaving and his victim and friend were entering. From this moment Green, who had been drinking brandy and wine throughout Christmas Day, was then intent on seriously injuring his victim.

Green, hoping Taka would leave the brothel so he could attack him, then jumped on Taka’s car’s bonnet and smashed his windscreen.

The commotion caused Taka to leave the brothel, get a metal bar and try to hit Green’s Skoda. Green then reversed as fast as he could at his victim, escaping the scene after killing him.

Green denied being responsible for destroying evidence after his car was found on fire later that day saying the blaze was “bad luck”.

He also claimed he reversed by mistake after having had problems with the gear box.

The jury took just an hour to convict Green of murder.

Mr Taka’s siter Sonila said: “Shkelzen was a much-loved brother and partner and his family are devastated at his loss.

“The pain we feel is not easily cured – pain in the soul that breaks me into a thousand pieces.”

Judge Inman paid tribute to the victim as he began sentencing. Addressing the defendant, who was dressed in an Adidas tracksuit and had several family members in court, he said: “Shkelzen Taka was only 28 years of age when you killed him.

“He had his life before him. He had come to this country from Albania and supported his family.

“No-one listening to the statements of friends and family could fail to have been moved by the love clearly held by those who knew him and the depth of their grief. They are clearly going to find it difficult to ever come to terms with their loss.”

Judge Inman outlined several points when Green could have left the scene but was instead in a “highly aggressive state of mind” and was intent on murder.

Referencing Green’s previous convictions as a drug dealer the Judge said he was “not of good character” but took into account he had not been in court for violence before.

The minimum sentence the judge could have handed down was 15 years but he instead he sentenced Green to a minimum of 20 years behind bars.

Green shook his head when told the sentence and there were gasps of anguish from his family, one of whom said: “disgusting”. When led away to the cells Green gave his family a thumbs up.

Three family members of the victim sat in silence throughout the proceedings.

Detective Inspector Wes Martin, from the force’s Homicide Unit, helped build the case against Green.

He said: “This is a tragic case where a chance encounter has led to the death of a family man and the imprisonment of another for life.

“All too often impetuous acts of violence lead to tragedy as we have seen here.”

He added: “My thoughts remain with Shkelzen’s family who continue to mourn his loss.”

Mark Heywood, defending, said: “He is still a comparatively young man. He has a supportive family split between two parts of the country. This has been a terrible experience for all of them but I am sure nothing compared to the family of the unfortunate Mr Taka.

“He has always been deeply affected by the death regardless of how he chose to conduct the trial.”

CCTV footage of Tony Green damaging car and attacking Shkelzen Taka

Report crime, get prevention advice, and see the latest news from West Midlands Police at www.west-midlands.police.uk

NEWS: Coton Lane Boxing Day death could be deliberate hit and run

Words and pics by Ed King

A man was killed in a what is believed to be a deliberate hit and run in the early hours of Boxing Day morning, on Coton Lane off Erdington High street.

The victim, who is unidentified at the time of writing, is believed to be from outside of Erdington according to sources from the crime scene.

Attending police could not issue too much information as the investigation is underway but were able to assure local residents that they were not expecting more violence.

When Erdington Local asked officers on the scene about public safety, our reporter was told: “there is no concern of that nature.”

Officers from across the city were called in to help protect the crime scene, many who have been on site since 6am on Boxing Day.

Police cordoned off the High Street entrance from Six Way down to the corner of Harrison Road, with forensics concentrating on the murder scene on Coton Lane.

A blue tent had been erected around the victim’s body whilst forensic teams and investigating officers combed the area for clues – with the victim’s body eventually moved by coroners at around 3:30pm on Boxing Day.

One local shop owner, who wished to remain anonymous, told Erdington Local: “I closed up and left the shop at half two in the morning and nothing had happened. People are saying it happened at 3am; my neighbours live up the road and they could see some of what was going on.”

Detective Sergeant Nick Barnes, from West Midlands Police homicide team, said: “My thoughts are with the family of the man who tragically died this morning.

“We’re in the early stages of our investigation and I’d urge anyone who witnesses anything who hasn’t yet spoken to us, or anyone with any information or dash cam footage to get in touch as soon as they can.

“A family have lost a loved one and we need to find out what took place and who is responsible.”

If you have any information please contact West Midlands Police via live chat on our website or call 101 quoting log number 688 of 26 December.

 

NEWS: New police figures show 49% increasing in Erdington hate crimes during Covid

Words by Adam Smith

Hate crimes in Erdington have increased by 49% during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Inspector Haroon Chughtai revealed 130 more people were victims of hate crimes between April and December, compared with the same period last year.

In his December email to Erdington locals, Inspector Chughtai said: “Around hate crime, there has been an increase of 49% which is around 130 extra victims of crime.

“There are no clear patterns or highly concentrated geographies – rather it is a real mixture of neighbour disputes, road rage incidents, abuse of retail staff and police officers.”

He added: “Hate crime is deplorable and something I will talk about in more detail in future messages.”

Hate crimes are those incidents in which the victims feel their race, sexuality, disability, or religion were the motivating factor for the preparators.

The shocking increase coincides with the COVID-19 pandemic and two lockdowns.

Inspector Chughtai has previously outlined the sharp increase of domestic abuse and violecne as relationships were put under extra strain due to lockdowns and coronavirus restrictions. As the year draws to a close, the shocking amount of victims of domestic abuse in Erdington proves another the human cost of Covid.

He said: “Domestic abuse has seen the most significant increase this year, around 45% – which is an extra 600 victims of crime and equates for just under one quarter of all the crime in Erdington.”

There has been a 17% increase in overall crime which equates to 1,400 more victims of crime in the area compared to last year. 

However, 2020 will be remembered for how the pandemic affected everyone and how police officers have had new challenges to face.

Inspector Chughtai said: “2020 has been a year I guess none of us will ever forget or truly get over, we have all had our lives changed and suffered in different ways and like all major events it has brought both the best and worst out in people.

“When I think of the best, I draw out people like the Erdington Task Force who have been extraordinary in how they have stepped up, the Stockland Green Action Group who have come together and in a short space of time played a big part in holding us and our partners to account and making the community safer.

“Places of worship who have stepped up and started food banks and other services to support their congregations and the wider community to get through this.”

Erdington’s top cop had a further message for offenders who have used the coronavirus lockdowns as cover for their violence and bullying.

He said: ”For me, the worst is the perpetrators of domestic abuse – who have taken advantage of the restrictions and made life unbearable for their victims, we will continue to everything to bring them to justice.”

 

If you believe you are a victim of domestic abuse or violence, call the freephone 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247 – for help online, visit www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk or www.refuge.org.uk

To make an anonymous report about any crime, effecting yourself or others, call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or visit www.crimestoppers-uk.org

To receive updates from the Neighbourhood Policing Teams in your area, visit www.neighbourhoodalert.co.uk  

To find out more about Erdington’s police force, visit www.west-midlands.police.uk/node/2710

For a list of support services, as compiled by members of the Erdington Task Force, visit www.erdingtonlocal.com/covid-19-local-support

LOCAL PROFILE: Inspector Haroon Chughtai

Words by Jobe Baker Sullivan / Pics supplied by West Midlands Police

(First published in Erdington Local’s Nov/Dec ’20 newspaper)

Haroon Chughtai is the West Midlands Police Inspector responsible for Erdington and Sutton Coldfield, overseeing both constituencies. Erdington Local caught up with the area’s top cop, to find out more about the man behind the badge.

Now 41 years old, Haroon Chughtai joined the police force in 2003 – straight after completing his degree in Business and Computer Science at Birmingham University. Being made Police Inspector for Erdington and Sutton Coldfield in January 2020, Haroon manages the neighbourhood teams and police staff across the two constituencies.

He cites his reasons for joining the police as “wanting to give back to the community,” as well as wanting to be an example of diversity in the force.

“I knew nobody who was a copper, I had no family members who were police officers. At that time, there was more of a drive to get the police force more representative – more black and Asian people.”

This literal ‘bobbie on his bike’ cycles to work regularly, operating out of Erdington Police Station, and bemoans the fact that he rarely gets out the office. Instead, Inspector Chughtai spends much of his time in the office overseeing “70-80” cops.

“I’m lucky if I get out once a month,” Haroon says, but thinks that “sometimes it’s important that I go out and see something for myself.”

When asked about changes in his career during his 17 years in the force, Haroon says that he is impressed with the “technological changes” the police have embraced and in the way it helps them operates. And in the days of cyber-crime and Internet criminality, the police now have to “operate online more, with social media.”

Inspector Chughtai also believes that huge government cuts during his time have caused the police to make “difficult decisions” such as being unable to deal immediately with “petty theft and crime.” Police departments across the country have been pushed to make substantial changes over recent years, with 16% of spending declining between 2010-2019 nationally.  

On the other hand, Haroon says that “The police force is much better at prioritizing things – based on risk and vulnerability. We deal with what needs to be dealt with immediately.”

During 2020, one of the biggest challenges for the local police force and for Haroon has been “the rise in domestic abuse”, with the Erdington Inspector estimating that domestic abuse accounts for “approximately a quarter of all Erdington’s crime.”

Victims are “predominantly women” with most offenders being male. This is also reflected in the rise of domestic abuse across the entire country since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with many violent relationships exacerbated during the national lockdowns. 

Inspector Chughtai found policing during the first lockdown “really challenging”, noting the “really poor understanding of what the restrictions were. The compliance wasn’t as good as it is now [to the rules].” This included non-essential businesses remaining open illegally.

When asked by Erdington Local to predict the immediate future of his role in the area, Haroon said that “Sadly, I think COVID is here to stay – the enforcement around COVID will have to continue”.

Haroon is also committed to reducing “under 25 violence”, especially referring to young people leaving school, hanging around streets and bus stops, and causing violent crime.  “In the past these sort of things might not have been recorded as crimes. Behind the bike-sheds a couple of lads have had a fight, nobody would remember – but nowadays, it’s officially reported.” Haroon and his officers work with parents and teachers to keep track of these crimes.

“I’m using all the overtime I have to tackle under 25 violence. We don’t want to criminalize kids, but we want to put some interventions in really early on.”

Asking Inspector Chughtai what he’d like to see changed in Erdington, he responds “a rebalance of housing market, especially with the sheer number of HMOs and hostels. It’s got more than anywhere else in the city – over 1000 in one concentration”. He wants HMOs to be “spread across the city, rather than being concentrated in small areas.”

Haroon’s regular monthly updates on the West Midlands Police website often report crime in neighbouring Sutton Coldfield as decreasing, whilst general crime rates increase across Erdington. But when asked about his own personal impressions of Erdington, he says that “Erdington’s got a real strong community spirit. You can see with the Erdington Task Force, and the Stockland Green Action Group.”

He says that Erdington is “unique” and that other inspectors from other parts of the city are surprised at hear how active the community is.

“During COVID there’s been a load of people that have stepped up to help people that are needy, that are vulnerable,” explains the Erdington Inspector. “It’s volunteers that do that work – it’s really selfless.”

To receive updates from the Neighbourhood Policing Teams in your area, visit www.neighbourhoodalert.co.uk

To find out more about Erdington’s police force, visit www.west-midlands.police.uk/node/2710

NEWS: Erdington police have “changed the tone” with public over COVID-19 restrictions, including fines from £100 to £3,200

Words by Adam Smith

Erdington’s top cop has warned his police officers will be more assertive with people flouting COVID-19 restriction rules.

Inspector Haroon Chughtai explained the new tougher stance as Birmingham was placed under the Government’s new Tier 2 restrictions today – including on the spot fines and fixed penalty notices of £100, increasing up to £3200 for repeat offenders.

In an email to Erdington residents, Inspector Haroon Chughtai explained people should by now understand the pandemic and its consequences – so his officers will spend less time explaining rules and more time enforcing them.

He said: “We have changed the tone of our policing of COVID. It could be argued that we have all had enough time to live with and understand what and why restrictions exist, so while we are still using the 4 E approach (Engage, Explain, Encourage and then Enforce) which I have mentioned previously, we will move to enforcement quicker then we have previously.

Thankfully this remains a rare occurrence with most people being very sensible and responsible in their behaviour. To give you some context in the last month, we have issued two fines, one to an individual who refused to wear a mask without a valid exemption and the second was only yesterday to a business in Sutton who have little or no social distancing measures in place.”

The Tier 2 COVID-19 restrictions which come into force today (Wednesday  14th October 2020) in Erdington, Kingstanding, and across Birmingham are:

  • People must not socialise with anybody outside of their household or support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place
  • The rule of six will now apply to private gardens, alongside other spaces like beaches or parks (other than where specific exemptions apply in law)
  • Weddings can go ahead with restrictions on the number of attendees
  • Funerals can only have 30 attendees, with a maximum of 15 at wakes and commemorations
  • Team sports can only be played where officially organised by a club or organisation
  • People are advised to minimise the number of journeys they make
  • While you can still go on holiday, it can only be with people you live with, or your support bubble
  • Businesses and venues can continue to operate until 10pm, in a COVID-secure manner – although customers must sit at a table when eating and drinking
  • Schools, universities and places of worship will remain open

As well as the latest COVID-19 policing issues, Inspector Chughtai revealed overall crime has risen again in Erdington compared to last year’s figures with domestic violence again worryingly high.

Inspector Chughtai said: “Erdington is showing a 10% increase in overall crime, that is around 600 extra victims of crime, like I said last month domestic abuse plays a large part in this increase with 450 extra victims of domestic abuse so far this year compared to the same period last year.

Domestic abuse continues to show increases with a 40% rise, which is 450 extra victims – this remains my biggest concern and the one of the main priorities of my teams.”

He added: “Robbery and burglary continue to show good reductions, with robbery showing a 16% reduction with 33 less victims of robbery, house burglaries show a 5% reduction with18 less victims of burglary, like Sutton we have seen an increase in burglary offences recently which is taking away the good reductions made earlier in the year.”

He added: “Under 25 violence shows a 6% reduction, which has increased compared to last month – largely down to an increase is low level fights between school children and some robbery offences with young people being both victims and offenders. We are working very closely with the schools around this.”

For more information from West Midlands Police about the latest COVID-19 restrictions, visit www.west-midlands.police.uk/coronavirus

For more information from Government on the latest COVID-19 restrictions in Birmingham, Sandwell, and Solihull, visit www.gov.uk/guidance/birmingham-sandwell-and-solihull-local-restrictions

If you believe you are a victim of domestic abuse, you can seek help and advice via the freephone 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline is 0808 2000 247

For more information visit www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk

NEWS: Kingstanding gets its lifesaving first bleed control kit on the Hawthorn

Words by Adam Smith / Pics by Ed King

The first bleed control kit has been installed in Kingstanding to save lives if stabbings and shootings continue to happen in the area.

The Grapevine off licence, Hawthorn Road, now has the medical equipment needed to stop bleeding immediately if someone gets injured nearby.

After a wave in deaths in inner city Birmingham, Bishop Desmond Jaddoo from Yes2Life put the kits in Lozells, Aston, and Handsworth – and has now set his sights on Kingstanding and Erdington.

He told Erdington Local: “We have wanted to get a bleed control kit in Kingstanding for a while.

The recent spark in violence has made it essential, it is about being prepared, just in case, many times things happen and we do not know what to do.

We started in Lozells, Handsworth and Newtown but our target has been North Birmingham, Kingstanding, Erdington, Oscott etc.”

He added: “We want to get bleed control kits in these areas but also provide training too, however, due to COVID training sessions have been hampered.

When there was a shooting in Great Hampton Street, Hockley, a woman got a bleed kit and saved his life, she had not had training but had seen some of our Facebook videos, so we are looking to produce more training videos.

The violence has not stopped because of COVID, in fact it has gone up.”

The bleed control kit includes items such as a tourniquet, bandages, and a foil blanket, and has been created with the help of Bunzl Healthcare, Purple Pharma, and Blue Kit Medical.

Bishop Jaddoo is delighted to have got a lifesaving foothold in Kingstanding.

He said: “This is the first bleed control kit in Kingstanding, we would have been in Kingstanding before but we are not funded. We have to fund these ourselves, so every time we get some donations we install more kits.

Our aim is to get bleed control kits on the College Road, Witton Lodge, Kingstanding Circle, here on the Hawthorn and up Kingstanding Road.

What we try to do is cover an area completely with kits and educate people how they can be used and then move on, we will go to Erdington next. But as we are not funded we need to build it slowly.

When people talk about issues proportionality, poverty and violence, a lot of people think because Kingstanding is in North Birmingham, which is seen as more affluent than inner city Birmingham. it’s OK but there is a lot of social housing in this area, and with that there is a lot of working class white people, and they are totally forgotten about and that is so wrong.

We need to think how society rates us, they lump in the black and Asian communities in with the working class communities. So, we have to class ourselves as one group.”

He added: “We picked The Grapevine because the shopkeeper understands the importance of bleed control kits and why they need to be in the community.

If someone is hurt, and we are not just talking about stabbings and shootings, if there is a car crash, the kit is for the zero responder, the person who sees the incident and can help immediately before the emergency services get there. These kits have tourniquets and bleed pressure bandages, those first minutes are vital.”

Owner of The Grapevine off licence on Hawthorn Road, Paul Bradford, wanted to have a bleed control kit in his shop to foster a sense of community in Kingstanding.

He said: “I have followed the work (Bishop) Desmond has done over the years and he told me how these bleed control kits can save lives so I wanted to get involved.

It is not just about the rising crime; we witnessed a really bad car crash outside the shop not long ago and we could have really done with a bleed control kit to help those injured.

If something happens on the Hawthorn we will be prepared, and anything can happen, we are a community on the Hawthorn. There is a defibrillator in the Co-op as well in case anyone has a heart attack, we are all in this together.

I’m glad that The Grapevine is the first of hopefully many businesses in Kingstanding to have a bleed control kit, I wish there was no need for them but there is.”

Bishop Desmond Jaddoo – outside The Grapevine off licence on Hawthon Road, Kingstanding

For more on Yes2Life, including the work they do challenging knife and gun crime, visit www.yes2life.co.uk

For more information about Bishop Desmond Jaddoo visit www.desjaddoo.org.uk

NEWS: Erdington Rugby Club wins ‘Gallagher Rugby Club of the Season’ national award

Words by Adam Smith / Pics supplied by Erdington RFC (all team pics wrere taken before coronavirus and social distancing regulations)

Erdington Rugby Club (RFC)’s work combatting knife crime, through working with local youngsters, has gained national recognition – after winning the first ever ‘Gallagher Rugby Club of the Season’ award.

Erdington RFC beat over 100 rival clubs to win the award, which was decided following a public vote and panel selection, after the success of its Changing Lives Through Rugby scheme – which saw volunteers offer free coaching to youngsters in danger of entering a life of crime and gang related violence.

The award, devised by Gallagher Insurance – which sponsors Premiership Rugby, is all the more impressive as the club had to start from scratch in 2016 after the club house was burned to the ground in 2003.

The England & British & Irish Lion, Harlequins legend, and Gallagher ambassador, Ugo Monye, paid a surprise visit to Erdington RFC this week to speak to club representatives about what winning means to them and the wider community.

The international rugby star said: “There was only one winner for me for this competition. Erdington RFC shone amongst the rest of the shortlisted finalists due to their profound commitment to their community, and most notably youth participants, both on and off the pitch.

To overcome such adversity in 2003 and get to the point they are at now is quite astounding and proves Erdington RFC is a fantastic winner of the Gallagher Rugby Club of the Season award.”

For winning the inaugural ‘Gallagher Rugby Club of the Season’ award, Erdington RFC – which plays at Spring Lane Playing Fields – were given £2,000 worth of Gilbert training kit.

Andy Trueman, community officer at Erdington RFC, said: “We are absolutely thrilled to be crowned winner of the Gallagher Rugby Club of the Season. Our club means everything to us and the surrounding community, and we are very grateful to have been recognised for our work in using rugby to make a positive impact in North Birmingham.

As well as having the honour of winning this award, we’re also delighted with our enhanced training kit prize, which will allow us to touch the lives of even more people within the community.” 

Changing Lives Through Rugby got volunteers to take part in coaching rugby in local schools, as well as providing outreach support in North Birmingham in partnership with the local police.

An after-school club, targeting pupils with known behavioural issues, the scheme helped youngsters build their teamwork skills, control aggression, respect authority, as well as providing them with a hot meal afterwards. All membership, kit, and match fees are waived for club participants as part of the sessions, and transport costs are covered for those who need it.

Sarah Griffiths, Director of Communications for Gallagher in the UK, commented: “Giving back to our local communities is incredibly important to everyone at Gallagher and so we created this award to recognise the often life-changing work that is being carried out by grassroots rugby clubs across the country.

We are thrilled to be presenting the Gallagher Rugby Club of the Season award to Erdington RFC who were voted the unanimous winner by all our judges.

The club does so much in their local community, despite having such little resources, and it really is not just the lifeblood of their community but also offers a potential life-line for young people by providing them with support, coaching and opportunities to thrive. A truly deserving winner.”

Erdington RFC also offers free dinners, alongside international and national league tickets to at risk youngsters – and in partnership with Birmingham City Council, further provides rugby tackle demonstrations at after-school violence hotspots in the city. 

The club also is planning to engage more mothers and daughters to take part in rugby, through their development of a separate touch rugby coaching session.

The original Erdington Rugby Club was forced to close in 2003 after its clubhouse was burnt down; Erdington RFC was reformed in 2016 with no facilities or players.

Now the club has grown to include over 100 U18 players, a squad of over 50 senior males, and a mixed gender touch rugby team.

Ugo Monye visits Erdington RFC

For more information about Erdington RFC, visit www.erfc.uk   

For more on Gallagher Premiership Rugby, visit www.premiershiprugby.com/gallagher-premiership-rugby