NEWS: Meeting held to tackle “endemic” crime and anti-social behaviour in Erdington Town Centre

Words & pics by Ed King

A meeting was held last week between West Midlands Police and High Street retailers, looking at ways to tackle the “endemic” crime and anti-social behaviour in Erdington Town Centre.

In attendance from West Midlands Police were the region’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Simon Foster, and Chief Superintendent Richard North – alongside Inspector Shameem Ahmed and Seargent Nicola Hooper, who oversee the Erdington police teams.

The meeting was held at St Barnabas Church, Erdington High Street, and was closed off to members of the public.

Representing the local retail community were managers and staff from a handful of High Street businesses including Superdrug, Card Factory, Erdington Pet Centre, The Church Tavern, and BoyleSports UK – the latter petitioning the local police to tackle alleged drug dealing outside their outlet at 210A High Street.

“Why can’t we have a dispersal order?” questioned a senior staff member from BoyleSports UK, asking the police directly what they are doing to challenge the alleged dealers.

“I don’t want these people outside my shop…” she continued, “they need to be gone, they’re a blight on the High Street. It’s relentless, they start dealing from 8am.”

Organised by the Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton and Erdington Business Improvement District (EBID), last week’s meeting was the continuation of conversations between the High Street business community and law enforcement representatives that began in February this year.

But whilst many retailers welcome any attempts at addressing the issues affecting the High Street, many others have pulled back from the meetings – telling Erdington Local they have stopped engaging with local police or politicians, who they feel are failing to get to grips with the problems or offer any effective solutions.

When the lack of local businesses in attendance was raised at the recent meeting, one longstanding High Street retailer explained: “The shop keepers have been at the first and fourth meetings, and they don’t see any change. What’s the point of calling the police when it takes them over one hour to respond.”

Another retailer supported the frustrations reportedly felt by many High Street businesses, telling the group: “There are no consequences to what they (the shoplifters) do. And there’s a lot of apathy from (High Street) retailers… nothing seems to get done.”

However, Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton, who’s office invited local business to attend the meeting last week, was resolute that local businesses had been given adequate chance to be involved. She told: “We went to virtually every shop on the High Street… the people who aren’t here don’t want to be here. We can only work with what we’ve got.”

Further addressing the local businesses, West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Foster – who has visited Erdington High Street several times – told: “It’s (crime and anti-social behaviour) endemic… we’re hearing about problems again and again. The issue is not being gripped… for a variety of different explanations.”

He continued: “A big part of the answer is making sure we rebuild community policing… visible policing helps keep families and communities safe,” before warning retailers “don’t underestimate the task” the police had in front of them to tackle crime on Erdington High Street.

Chief Superintendent Richard North also confirmed he had “seen some of the challenges and appreciate the frustrations”, and that he would “defend the officers here who are dealing with crimes across the constituency”.

He further told how West Midlands Police were recruiting new officers, but it would take time to train any incoming staff “up to independent control status”. Although Chief Superintendent Richard North did confirm that “going forward” there should be “more officers” deployed into Erdington.

He added: “As recruitment settles down, we should be in a better position.”

Outside of recruiting and training new police officers, there is also a ’10 Point Plan’ currently being worked through by Birmingham City Council to address issues on the High Street from street lighting to police presence.

Ending the meeting everyone in attendance was invited to comment, with Erdington Ward Councillor Gareth Moore telling: “It’s great that we met today but there needs to be more progression… I don’t want to meet again in a couple of months and be talking about the same things.”

Paulette Hamilton MP added: “I want to be able to walk up and down that High Street and feel as safe as I used to.”

The next meeting, which is open to all retailers in Erdington Town Centre, is scheduled for February 2024.

LOCAL Q&A: John Hodgkiss, Erdington Town Centre Manager

Pics by Connor Pope & Ed King

John Hodgkiss was appointed Erdington Town Centre Manager in August 2022, after his longstanding predecessor, Terry Guest, left the role. Responsible for delivering the Erdington Business Improvement District (EBID) agenda, and supporting the businesses that finance the EBID, the position stands between the retail community and local stakeholders and blue light services.

Now a year in post, Erdington Local caught up with John Hodgkiss to look back at the last 12 months and sneak a peek at the next.

___________

What have been the biggest challenges facing Erdington High Street?

Like every town centre in the county, the cost of living crisis has continued to cause uncertainty for retailers and shoppers on the High Street.

This all comes at a time when town centres are moving in a new direction in the Post Covid era, such as becoming a home for community projects and charities able to connect more widely with those who need help.

The biggest challenge facing Erdington High Street has proven to be the raising level of crime and anti-social behaviour. To really be able to continue growing footfall and attract inward investment, it is vital that we work hard to reduce crime which will in turn change people’s perception of Erdington High Street, enabling us to do so much more when marketing the town centre in the future.

 

And what have been the main highlights and achievements from your time as Town Centre Manager?

The main highlight has been working with some of Erdington’s great charity projects. I haven’t worked in a town before with such a strong community as in Erdington. There is so much great work going on out there. Erdington is most certainly a leader in this field, but more work needs to be done here in getting the word out about these organisations, not only to Erdington residents, but Birmingham-wide.

The Christmas, Easter, and Jazz & Blues Festival events were great fun, and they were opportunities to welcome visitors from outside Erdington and showcase the town.

Another highlight has been applying for and securing funds over and above what we receive via BID levy in order to pay for extra events this winter and to employ a second Street Warden to patrol the High Street.

 

We agree, especially the Jazz & Blues Festival gigs at Oikos – any more events like this planned?

We’re really pleased with how the Birmingham Jazz and Blues gigs turned out. Despite the awful weather, the town pulled together to make sure the show went on.

It was the first time that Erdington had taken part in the city-wide festival. The feedback was extremely positive with great attendance. We have already been asked to take part again next year, so let’s hope we can make it even bigger and better in 2024 and attract people from all over Birmingham to attend.

 

As we head out of summer and into autumn and winter, are there any seasonal events in the pipeline – over Halloween or Christmas for example?

Believe it or not, we have been working on Christmas for a few weeks now, recruiting community members and volunteers to help make Christmas in Erdington even bigger and better this year.

We were really pleased with the turnout for the switch-on last year, but we aim to improve in 2023 and put on a great switch-on as well as other events throughout December.

November and December are crucial times for retail, so we want to work alongside retailers to bring in as many shoppers possible, reminding local residents and shoppers further afield that they can get so much of their Christmas shopping in Erdington.

 

The EBID was reinstated for its next five year tenure a few months before you took over, do you feel it is making headway on its campaign promises – to tackle crime, encourage higher footfall, and promote Erdington to a wider audience?

These issues are still those that are the most important to deliver for Erdington during the lifetime of this EBID tenure and it’s very evident how these goals are ultimately linked, with a ‘knock-on’ effect on each other.

As mentioned, crime is still the biggest issue facing Erdington at the moment. By recently employing a new Street Warden, we hope to see a decrease in anti-social behaviour and crime, making full use of the Public Space Protection Order.

Through getting to grips with crime, we would expect greater footfall, bringing back those shoppers who have been concerned to visit the High Street more recently. At this time, it is vital that we continue communicating the positives about Erdington far and wide and encourage shoppers to revisit and enjoy Erdington Town Centre. Therefore, it’s essential that these three promises stay at the top of the list for delivery.

 

The EBID recently helped set up meetings between the retail community, local police teams, and elected officials, to draft a 10 point plan for the High Street – can you update our readers on this?

The formation of this 10 point plan dates back to February this year with a public meeting to discuss a way forward with the crime situation in Erdington. The latest meeting took place in May and the next I believe is to go ahead in October (later confirmed to be scheduled for 19 October).

The EBID has been involved by offering to take details of crime from retailers on the High Street due to the wide-spread observation that they are unable to get though the 101 non-emergency number to report crime.

We were also very keen to help with the provision of a ‘pop-up’ police surgery, providing an essential point of contact for those affected by or concerned about crime on the High Street.

We are still waiting on updates on progression with these projects, which is why we felt it necessary to do what we could in the private sector, by seeking extra funding to employ another Street Warden to help alleviate the worsening situation right now.

We will continue to apply for extra funding where we can ‘step-up’ what the EBID is able to do in order to achieve lower crime rates in Erdington.

 

You have a strong history of working with BIDs in London and the West Midlands, do you feel they work well with other local stakeholders – such as the Council and police?

BIDs can certainly work well and closely with other stakeholders, but it is important to clarify that BIDs are here to provide services over and above what public sector organisations are funded to provide.

The EBID brings in just over 100k per year, so we’re working hard at the moment to apply for as much extra funding as possible to deal with the crime situation and make sure that we also deliver the projects outlined and voted for in the business plan. Unfortunately, we are unable to ‘pick up’ funding shortages of others.

 

You mentioned to Erdington Local before that you were keen to establish Erdington High Street as and LGBTQ+ ‘safe space’, can you tell us any more about this ambition?

This came up in response to the report that there was a lack of grass roots LGBTQ+ support in North Birmingham and the fact the team at the Recovery Foundation had launched an LGBTQ+ support programme, ‘Rainbow Minds Matter’.

Together, we want to highlight the fact that Erdington is safe and supportive of the LGBTQ+ community by highlighting the safe spaces throughout the High Street. This is a project we will be working on in the near future to get the message of diversity and inclusivity across.

 

Are there any other aims for the EBID in the next twelve months?

Looking at the next 12 months, tackling crime will continue as a priority, evaluating the improvement on the High Street over this time.

We will continue reporting on the many positives regarding Erdington Town Centre, enhance our events programme, and increase a higher percentage of shoppers from outside Birmingham.

Another important aim is to attract new retailers, both national and independent into Erdington Town Centre.

 

If you could wave a magic wand and change any aspect of Erdington High Street overnight, what would you want to see when you woke up in the morning?

I would love to see Erdington as leading the way in what a quickly evolving British town centre looks like. So many town centres are in a transition period at the moment due to many external and economic pressures not experienced to this extent before.

The exemplary community projects are here in Erdington already, so an ambition would be to have an Erdington Community Hub with a home on the High Street, to bring together as many opportunities and assistance together for the community together in one place and the perfect way to shout about everything Erdington!

For more on the Erdington Business Improvement District visit www.erdingtonhighstreet.co.uk or visit the EBID Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ErdingtonTownCentre

(Ed’s note: This LOCAL Q&A was first submitted to Erdington Local before the announcement of any Section 114 notice issued by Birmingham City Council.)

NEWS: Police issue appeal to find man after York Road cash point robbery

Words & pics by Ed King / Pic from CCTV supplied by West Midlands Police

West Midlands Police (WMP) have released an image of a man they want to talk to following a cash point robbery on York Road near Erdington High Street last month.

Earlier today, WMP posted an appeal on their Twitter feed showing the blurry image of a man – presumably taken from CCTV footage – under the heading: “#APPEAL | Do you recognise this man?”

The post continued to state: “We want to speak to him after a man was robbed outside a bank in #Erdington last month.

“At 12.45pm on Wed 2 August, a man was withdrawing money from the ATM (near Erdington) High Street when another man approached and pushed him to the ground, causing injury, before taking the money that had just been withdrawn and making off.

Members of the public are then encouraged to contact West Midlands Police with any information they have, calling the force on 101 or messaging them via their website’s Live Chat facility: www.west-midlands.police.uk/contact-us/live-chat

Anyone contacting police with information about the man in the picture issued by WMP, or the robbery itself, has been asked to quote crime reference number: 20/673861/23

Erdington Local contacted West Midlands Police for any further information about the robbery, who confirmed it took place outside an ATM on York Road ‘near to the High Street’.

The only ATMs Erdington Local could find on York Road belong to Lloyds Bank. A sign fixed to the wall next to the side street cash machines states: ‘Please be vigilant… Thieves operate in this area’.

Erdington High Street was once one of the busiest throughfares in Birmingham, with a vibrant market and retail community, but has been blighted in recent years by street violence, anti-social behaviour, and endemic shoplifting.

Calls for extra police presence have often been made by local businesses and shoppers alike, many of whom are increasingly concerned over safety in the Town Centre.

John Hodgkiss from the Erdington Business Improvement District (EBID) has been involved in trying to tackle crime in the Town Centre since being appointed as Town Centre Manager in August 2022.

Alongside local elected officials, Mr Hodgkiss instigated meetings earlier this year with local police and stakeholders to draft a 10 point plan to address criminality in the area.

Mr Hodgkiss recently told Erdington Local: “The formation of this 10 point plan dates back to February this year with a public meeting to discuss a way forward with the crime situation in Erdington. The next (meeting) I believe is to go ahead in October.

“The EBID has been involved by offering to take details of crime from retailers on the High Street due to the wide-spread observation that they are unable to get though the 101 non-emergency number to report crime.

“We were also very keen to help with the provision of a ‘pop-up’ police surgery, providing an essential point of contact for those affected by or concerned about crime on the High Street.

“We are still waiting on updates on progression with these projects, which is why we felt it necessary to do what we could in the private sector, by seeking extra funding to employ another Street Warden to help alleviate the worsening situation right now.”

Anyone with information regarding the man in the picture issued by West Midlands Police have been asked to contact the force by calling 101 or via the Live Chat on their website quoting the crime number: 20/673861/23

OPINION: Erdington Cllr Robert Alden, Leader of Birmingham Conservatives

Pic supplied by Cllr Robert Alden (Erdington Ward, Conservative)

The last few months have seen progress on Cllr Gareth Moore and my efforts to tackle crime and disorder across the Erdington Ward. We both supported the recent police all out day on the High Street.

This has seen approximately 800 illegal vapes seized from two premises which have been referred to trading standards with a view to further action, while during July over 20 PSPO tickets have been issued to individuals.

As a director of Erdington Town Centre Business Improvement District I’m delighted we’ve been able to secure an additional High Street warden.

Police have been able to act on intelligence from residents and a local Neighbourhood Watch group to be able to raid a property on Dunvegan Road and remove over 250 cannabis plants. This follows recent seizures and arrests on Chester Road.

We always urge residents to report any information they have to the police as, while it may not instantly lead to something happening, this intelligence is added to other reports and can lead to arrests like those above.

Everyone in Erdington can help make our area safer by reporting anything suspicious to the police.

This month saw the return of travellers to Rookery Park. We secured their eviction and a deep clean of the park and have had concrete blocks placed to prevent the gates being broken open again whilst a longer-term solution is found to keep the park secure.

For more from Cllr Robert Alden and Cllr Gareth Moore visit www.facebook.com/ErdingtonNews

(Ed’s note: This column was first published in the Erdington Local newspaper on 4 September, before the announcement of a Section 114 notice issued by Birmingham City Council.)

NEWS: Erdington BID enlists second Street Warden to tackle crime on High Street

Words & pics by Ed King

Erdington Business Improvement District (EBID) has enlisted a second Street Warden to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour on Erdington High Street.

Camran Montgomery-Ashiq is already getting on with the job, patrolling the retail district alongside existing Street Warden, John Lynch – with both men managed by longstanding local firm, Euro Guard Security.

Familiar with the problems facing Erdington’s retailers, Camran has family directly affected by the shoplifters and anti-social behaviour turning so many shoppers away.

“My brother is one of the managers on the High Street,” told Camran. “He introduced me to John (Lynch) who told me about the role and the company (Euro Guard Security) and I was interested.

“It’s life, people are going to shoplift and we’re here to stop them. But hopefully we’ll get the High Street back to how it used to be.”

Seeing two Street Wardens on Erdington High Street will be a welcome sight to many local retailers and residents. It also gives long needed support to John Lynch, who many regard as the only real defence against crime on the High Street.

“It makes me feel safer,” admits Lynch, “because I don’t get any support from the police. Now when it does get into a situation, I’ve got someone to back me up.”

Fulfilling part of the mandate that got the EBID re-elected in November 2021, the extra Street Warden is one step both the Erdington BID and Euro Guard Security are taking to turn the tide of criminality in the area.

Euro Guard Security Operations Manager, William Byrne, told Erdington Local: “First and foremost it was important to get another Street Warden along with John, due to the high risk in Erdington with things that are going on.

“The whole point of brining the wardens onto the (High) street is to make everybody’s environment a safer place to work, and a safer place to be in. Hopefully, if we can bring some of that to the High Street we may then increase the footfall which will in turn benefit the shops.”

And with many of retailers relying on them in the absence of more police presence, Byrne recognises “having the Street Wardens is an integral part of keeping Erdington safe.”

John Hodgkiss, Erdington BID and Town Centre Manager, added: “From the beginning of this year the (EBID) board recognised that crime and anti-social behaviour was one of the biggest – if the not biggest – issues facing Erdington Town Centre. So, back in February we started consulting with BID levy payers and the public, and we realised that we really needed to do something to tackle these major issues.

“It’s great to now have Cam on board to enhance all the great work that John (Lynch – original Street Warden) does, and to have support and help for him.”

“It’s (crime on the High Street) basically one of our biggest problems; we want to improve inward investment into Erdington Town Centre, we want to increase footfall, we want to bring new retailers in, and one of the only ways that we’re actually going to do this is if we tackle the crime issue and start getting the positives in.

“The BID essentially a private sector organisation, and our levy payers are paying over and above on their business rates to pay for these enhanced services (Street Wardens).

“But it would be nice to have some extra help from the public sector.”

For more on the Erdington Business Improvement District visit www.facebook.com/erdingtonBID

NEWS: Oikos Café to host international artists as part of Birmingham Jazz & Blues Festival – on Saturday 22 July

Words by Ed King / Pics supplied by Birmingham Jazz & Blues Festival

Oikos Café and Church will play host to an international array of musical artists on Saturday 22 July, as part of the citywide Birmingham Jazz & Blues Festival 2023.

Brought to Erdington by the Business Improvement District (EBID), this year’s festival will see New York based Hitman Blues Band and UK’s Honeyboy Hickling Blues Band perform two free to access live shows at the Erdington High Street venue.

Formed in 1989 by Russell ‘Hitman Alexander, The Hitman Blues Band have recorded six studio albums and one live album since their debut LP, Blooztown, was first released in 2000 on Nerus Records – featuring a special aprearance from Ray Alexander on two of the album track.

Their latest and seventh full length release – Not My Circus, Not My Monkey – was released in March 2021, produced and engineered at New York’s Parcheesi Studios.

Honeyboy Hickling is a renowned UK harmonica player, singer, and songwriter, having spent over 30 years touring and performing with artists including legendary blues guitarist Bo Diddly, rock guitarist Steve Marriot (Small Faces, Humble Pie), and multi-instrumentalist Anthony Thistlethwaites (The Saw Doctors, The Waterboys).

Both events at Oikos Café and Church will be free to attend and open to people of all ages, with The Hitman Blues Band scheduled to perform at 12noon and Honeyboy Hickling Blues Band at 2:30pm – both gigs on Saturday 22 July.

Dan Mandley, pastor at Okios Church, told Erdington Local: “Events like this are great for the community of Erdington.

“It’s an opportunity to bring people together from across our diverse community to enjoy live music and food. We get to showcase what a great place Erdington is.”

Erdington Town Centre and EBID Manger, John Hodgkiss, added: “We are delighted to be welcoming two international Jazz and Blues acts to Erdington in July.

“It’s the first time that Erdington has taken part in the Birmingham wide Jazz and Blues Festival, so we want to make it a memorable day, inviting the whole community to the free event.

“We have already received some great feedback on social media and it’s pretty evident that there are quite a few Jazz fans in Erdington. It’s also a great excuse to do some summer shopping in the town centre.”

Birmingham Jazz & Blues Festival has been running for 39 years, organised by rock photographer, jazz musician, and early Black Sabbath band manager, Jim Simpson, who has close ties to Erdington.

Performance times at Oikos Café & Church on Saturday 22 July will: The Hitman Blues Band at 12noon + Honeyboy Hickling Blues Band at 2:30pm.

For more details on Birmingham Jazz & Blues Festival 2023, running from 14 July to 23 July –  including full listings for this year’s event, visit www.birminghamjazzfestival.com

NEWS: Local businesses invited to hear ‘10 point plan’ to tackle crime on Erdington High Street – meeting on Thursday 23 March

Words & pics by Ed King

On Thursday 23 March, local businesses and retailers are invited to a meeting with Birmingham City Council and West Midlands Police, to hear their combined ’10 point plan’ to tackle crime on Erdington High Street and in the Town Centre.

Crime and antisocial behaviour have become key concerns in the central Erdington shopping district, with High Street retailers losing thousands each week to shoplifters and many local residents feeling unsafe to visit the area.

Organised by the Erdington Business Improvement District (BID) and Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton, the meeting is a continuation of consultations between the elected officials and the local business community – this month to be held at Oikos Café and Church at 6pm on Thursday 23 March.

Anyone wishing to attend should contact the EBID to register a place by emailing erdingtonhighstreet@hotmail.co.uk or sending a message through their Facebook page – click here.

Local businesses and retailers can also secure a place at the meeting by emailing Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton’s office at paulette.hamilton.mp@parliament.uk

Promoting the event, a message on the Erdington BID Facebook page said: “The next police and crime meeting, focusing on Erdington Town Centre will take place on Thursday March 23rd at Oikos Church, Erdington High Street at 6pm.

“West Midlands Police and Birmingham City Council will be talking through their 10 point plan to help improve the High Street moving forward.”

Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton added: “At my previous meeting in February, I heard many local traders talk about the problems they are facing on the High Street. There is no doubt that something needs to be done to improve the situation if we want to prevent more shops from closing.

“This week, I have called a follow-up meeting with local businesses and look forward to hearing about Birmingham City Council’s action plan for our High Street.

“I’m pleased that we are making progress and I hope to see as many local businesses as possible at the meeting.”

Erdington suffers with a higher than average crime rate across the city, with an already stretched local police force facing a huge challenge with limited resources.

Since 2010, police teams across the region have been decimated by budget cuts – losing around 50% of officers dedicated to neighbourhood and community policing.

But in a recent meeting Chief Constable Craig Guildford maintained his force’s commitment to “…providing the best service we can to the residents, business owners, and any visitors to the High Street in Erdington.”

He added: “I definitely need people to report (crimes), to ring 999, if there’s a shoplifter detained that kicking off or assaulting anybody.

“And at the same time, I’d also encourage you to engage the BID and encourage the local businesses to work with the BID as well.”

To secure a place at the crime strategy meeting at Oikos Café on Thursday 23 March, at 6pm, email erdingtonhighstreet@hotmail.co.uk or paulette.hamilton.mp@parliament.uk

For more on the Erdington BID visit www.erdingtonhighstreet.co.uk or www.facebook.com/erdingtonBID  
For more from Paulette Hamilton visit www.paulettehamilton.org

For more on Oikos Café visit www.oikoscafe.co.uk

If you have been a victim of crime on Erdington High Street we want to hear your story – please get in touch with us at: mystory@erdingtonlocal.com

FEATURE: Erdington retailers are losing thousands on “lawless” High Street scourged by shoplifters

Words by Ed King / Pics by Ed King and Studio Creativity

Erdington’s retailers are losing thousands every week as the “lawless” High Street is scourged by shoplifters, many of whom are repeat offenders known to local law enforcement.

“It’s every day,” tells Karen Leavy, store manager at Peacocks on Erdington High Street. “The ones that we know of it could be up to two or three times a day. Then there are one’s that we don’t know of, going to the back of the shop and detagging stock. They are an everyday occurrence as well.

“From 2019 up to last year it’s improved, but we’re still losing about £250 a day.”

Karen’s family have worked in retail for many years and are no strangers to shoplifters, or an underwhelming response from local police teams.

“I previously worked at the Peacocks in Stechford,” continued Karen, “and we had somebody who was shoplifting constantly. He went to court, got a slap on the hand, then he started coming into this store (Erdington) and doing it here.

“They can spit at us, they can kick out at us, they can call us all the names under the sun, but we can’t do anything to them. And he’s literally got away with thousands of pounds worth of stuff.

“I’d given the name to the police, and I’ve never heard anything about it since. My mum worked in the this store many years ago and she got punched full force in the face by a shoplifter, and nothing was done about that.”

Since 2010, policing budgets across the West Midlands have been slashed by Government cuts, with the region losing a reported £175m and 2000 police officers – around 25% of those in active service, and over 50% allocated to community policing.

In a recent meeting organised by the Erdington Business Improvement District (EBID), at the request of the Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton, Sargeant Simon Wheeler encouraged local retailers to report every crime to get more officers allocated to the area.

But many local shops still struggle. Karen continues: “I’ve given the information to the police, but it means I’m off the shop floor… I can be on the phone for 45mins to an hour trying to get through.

“One person off that shop floor could allow three of four shoplifters in the shop. I physically can’t do it; I literally can’t leave the shop floor.”

Even for retailers with dedicated shop security the battle is still steeply uphill. At the other end of the High Street, the Coop supermarket is just as plagued by shoplifters as Peacocks, suffering the same pattern in repeat offenders.

Coop manager Ben Hall told Erdington Local: “We haven’t got police presence on the High Street and that’s just enticing criminal behaviour. We get a lot of shoplifters in here and I think it’s rather lawless on the High Street at the moment.

“There was a shoplifter who came in over the space of a week and a half, and stole about £500 worth of bottles of spirits.

“Finally, we caught the man in action, stealing, and we detained him and rang the police. Martin (security guard) went through all the correct procedures, logged it with the police and got a crime reference number, and burnt off all the CCTV footage.

“Then the policeman came and said there was nothing they could do.

“We understand how hard it is for the police, but my staff come in and work their socks off – they go above and beyond for the business. The police should be doing the same thing.”

Like the Coop and Peacocks, to many retailers more police presence on Erdington High Street seems to be the answer. But in the shadow of austerity and with a city to patrol, the argument continues over available resources.

And stuck in the middle is Erdington Street Warden, John Lynch – employed by the EBID, who also provide a radio system for local shops to warn each other of offenders. Having worked on Erdington High Street for years, John is a familiar faced deterrent to many shoplifters in the area.

“It’s got to the point where shops have stopped reporting thefts because they know nothing will come back from it,” tells John, who keeps receiving calls through his radio.

“Like with Peacocks, there was one guy who was robbing them every Sunday – they knew his name, they’ve got CCTV, they reported it, but they’ve never heard anything back to this day.

“Then we had a member of staff who was assaulted in Farmfoods, who was punched in the face. They knew the offender; they knew his name. The man who was assaulted has never heard anything back about that at all.

“The police say people aren’t reporting crime, but they are reporting crimes – they’re constantly reporting crimes, and all they get is a crime reference number, it’s logged, and they never hear anything after that.

“I know the police are busy, but they should focus on the more serious crimes on the High Street,” continues John. “I’m getting complaints on a daily basis about all the drug dealers outside Iceland, so that needs to get looked into.

“And when you’re talking about assault, large thefts, and continuous thefts, those people do need to be dealt with as they’re causing a major problem.”

John has also been the victim of assault, with one man breaking a restraining order to come back to Erdington High Street to steal – having only been out of prison for one week, after serving time for previously assaulting John and a police officer.

“I reported it to the police,” tells John, “the burglary offence and the breach of the restraining order… and to this day I’ve heard nothing back. The store’s heard nothing; I’ve heard nothing.

“They had CCTV footage. All the evidence was there, somebody said they would come and take a statement, but I heard nothing more about it. This was around October last year.”

But despite the imbalance of crime and punishment, there is still a communal desire to see significant change – with a ransacked police force and beleaguered community ultimately wanting the same thing. Law and order.

Plus, existing local legislation such as the Public Space Protection Order (PSBO) can be used to great effect.

Erdington Local recently witnessed officers PC Stiles and PC Bird deescalate a potentially violent clash, using the threat of a fine through the PSBO to remove an aggressive woman from the High Street.

As the offender stormed off, she shouted back at the officers who had successfully moved her on: “that’s why I don’t like coming here.”

Many feel regular communication and information sharing between police, the Street Warden, and the retail community would also go a long way – helping to send a message of ‘no tolerance’ to crime on the High Street.

As Ben at the Coop was quick to add, after highlighting the day to day issues that face his staff, his store, and the High Street at large: “I don’t want to seem like I’m just picking on the police.

“Albin (security) got assaulted by a shoplifter, and the police arrived within seconds and dealt with it fantastically. There also an officer called Dave, and he’s brilliant – I can’t sing his praises high enough.

“But if we can work together and get better police presence on the High Street… and it’s not just for the Coop, it’s for the whole High Street.

“We need to work together.”

NEWS: Local businesses invited to MP meeting about crime on Erdington High Street – to be held on Tuesday 14 February

Words & pics by Ed King

On Tuesday 14 February, local businesses and High Street retailers have been invited to attend a meeting to discuss crime and anti-social behaviour within the Erdington Shopping district.

Organised by the Erdington Business Improvement District (EBID) and Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton, the meeting will be held at St Barnabas Church in the evening – with all local shop owners, workers, and businesses invited.

Anyone wishing to attend should contact the EBID to register a place by emailing erdingtonhighstreet@hotmail.co.uk or calling (0121) 306 4270.

Erdington Town Centre and EBID Manager, John Hodgkiss, told Erdington Local: “I organised the meeting on the request of Paulette (Hamilton), to discuss the current crime situation in the town centre.

“Initially, it was to focus on the 6 Ways end of the High Street which seems to be having more problems in general.

“I visited them all last week to invite, but as a result I’m expecting that retailers from all over will attend.

“It’s essentially as a result of Erdington losing out on the Levelling Up funding. Paulette (Hamilton) wanted to look at more focussed projects including crime, retail, and the local economy, and push on with these as soon as possible.”

Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton added: “I’ve called a meeting with local businesses along Erdington High Street to discuss how we can tackle the issues they are facing and work together to secure the investment our High Street desperately needs.

“Erdington High Street is the heart and soul of our community, but sadly it’s been in decline for many years.

“As more shops close, the area has become a magnet for antisocial behaviour that has resulted in the introduction of a Public Space Protection Order.

“The latest blow came from the Government after they recently rejected our Levelling Up Fund application that would have transformed our High Street, and we’re still fighting to stop the approval of an eighth betting shop.

“It’s important that we all work together to make Erdington a better place and I hope to see as many local businesses as possible at the meeting (on Tuesday 14 February).”

Once one of the busiest roads in Birmingham, the Erdington shopping district has been blighted with crime and antisocial behaviour in recent years – with many people now avoiding the area due to concerns over street drinking, drug dealing, and harassment on the High Street.

Retailers are under daily siege from shoplifters, with a lack of any firm police presence giving criminals a green light to keep offending – according to High Street shop staff and security.

Several key shops have further closed their doors for good after the Covid lockdowns, with even major banks pulling down their shutters and leaving Erdington Town Centre.

But despite two recent rejections for Levelling Up Fund (LUF) money, and a previous rejection from the Future High Streets Fund in December 2022, there are still locally led plans in place to help regenerate the High Street.

Even though the project was a key part of the recent LUF application, Witton Lodge Community Association remain committed to transforming the old swimming baths into an Enterprise Hub – with ambitious plans to create jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities at the currently disused site.

St Barnabas are continuing to explore alternative funding to renovate their churchyard, a regeneration project that again would have been significantly supported by the LUF bid.

Whilst Central Square is turning over a new leaf, with the old shopping centre owners investing in a significant makeover and letting new units.

The meeting on Tuesday 14 February will be a chance for local businesses and retailers to voice their concerns over High Street crime directly to the Erdington MP and Businesses Improvement District.

Erdington Local will be meeting with West Midlands Police Chief Constable Craig Guildford on 28 February, to further discuss crime on the High Street.

If you have been a victim of crime on Erdington High Street we want to hear your story – please get in touch with us at: mystory@erdingtonlocal.com

BACK TO WORK: Jobs Fair to be held at St Barnabas Church on Tuesday 31 January

Words by Steve Sharma & Ed King / Pics supplied by WLCA & Ed King

On Tuesday 31 January, a Jobs Fair will be held at St Barnabas Church on Erdington High Street – giving local job seekers the chance to meet large employers in the area.

Organised by Witton Lodge Community Association (WLCA) in partnership with the Erdington Business Improvement District (BID) the event will also provide a chance to speak directly with training providers, as well as to apply for live vacancies.

A previous Jobs Fair, held at the Erdington High Street church in August, brought together a range of providers offering opportunities around digital skills.

With medical providers and disability support charities attending the January event, including the NHS and Mencap, there will be a range of employment opportunities for people interested in a career in healthcare.

More than 70 people attended the first Jobs Fair event, with most of the employment stands busy and lined with people waiting to speak to recruiters representing a range of different industries across North Birmingham.

Melissa Gayle, Employability Coordinator at WLCA, said: “We had a wonderful turnout at the last event and are confident this next one will be just as popular as Job Fairs are a very effective way of allowing people to connect with employers.

“They also provide job seekers with the opportunity to interview for vacancies.”

John Hodgkiss, Erdington Town Centre and BID Manager, added: “The name of the project is the Erdington Employment Charter.

“It’s being put into place to offer local Erdington job seekers the best chance of success, with local partners in both the public and private sectors working together to identify local job vacancies and expedite these through to local residents.

“Furthermore, candidates will be offered a bespoke employment service tailored to them, from application advice and help through to post interview support and guidance.

“There will be an expert team on hand to offer this support, and we urge any local employers in the Erdington area to contact us with open vacancies, so we can fill these with local Erdington talent with no expense to the employer.”

St Barnabas Church, the oldest church in Erdington, hold regular community events – including a stay and play called Barnie Babies, a youth café run in conjunction with local faith based support charity Urban Devotion, and a weekly Warm Space Café with free soup and refreshments.

Jane Smith, St Barnabas Parish Administrator and Communications Co-ordinator, told: “There have been several Jobs Fairs hosted at St Barnabas Church Centre over the years and we’re always delighted to work with local partners to help make them happen.

“The events provide a valuable opportunity for local people to meet employers and training providers and find useful information on organisations that can support those seeking work.

“It promises to be a busy day and we look forward to welcoming everyone.”

Organisations already confirmed for the WLCA and Erdington BID Jobs Fair at St Barnabas Church on Tuesday 31 January include the National Health Service (NHS), Acado, AM2PM, and Mencap.

Any employers who are looking to recruit in North Birmingham and who would like to be part of event, and the wider Erdington Employment Charter, are asked to email the Erdington BID at erdingtonhighstreet@hotmail.co.uk

For more from Witton Lodge Community Association visit www.wittonlodge.org.uk

For more from the Erdington Business Improvement District visit www.erdingtonhighstreet.co.uk

For more from St Barnabas, including links to their social media and community events programme, visit www.stbarnabaserdington.org.uk