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.

NEWS: Holocaust Memorial Day event to be held on Erdington High Street, Friday 27 January

Words by Ed King

As the world remembers Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) on Friday 27 January, a special ceremony will be held on Erdington High Street at 1:30pm.

Taking place on the Village Green, opposite Erdington Library, the event is free to attend and open to people of all ages, religions, and cultures.

Organised by Everyone Erdington, the multi faith organisation set up to ‘celebrate diverse Erdington’, Friday’s event is the continuation of an annual remembrance on Holocaust Memorial Day – which looks back at the genocide and mass extermination of Jews and other communities in World War II, as well as reminding us of more modern atrocities in places like Rwanda, Darfur, Cambodia, and Bosnia.

The theme for Holocaust Memorial Day 2023 is ‘ordinary people’, recognising the day to day folk who are both responsible for and victims off human brutality. As the HMD website states: ‘Genocide is facilitated by ordinary people. Ordinary people turn a blind eye, believe propaganda, join murderous regimes.

‘And those who are persecuted, oppressed and murdered in genocide… simply because they are ordinary people who belong to a particular group.’

Everyone Erdington’s event will start by playing the theme music to Holocaust Memorial Day 2023 ‘Ordinary People’ – before a reading about the Veseli’s, a Muslim family who sheltered Jews during World War II in a small Albanian mountain village.

There will also be presentations from local schools St Edmund Campion and St Barnabas, with the later sharing stories about children who suffered during the Rwanda Civil War.

Music and moments of collective remembrance will also take place, with a final reading about Holocaust survivor Harry Spriro – who was separated from his family in his early teens, after the German invasion of Poland in 1939, and spent World War II in concentration and labour camps.

Harry Spriro’s family were murdered in the Poland based Trebilnka death camp, alongside an estimated 6,000,000 Jewish people across Europe during the Nazi’s Holocaust during World War II – including systematic pogroms and mobile killing units (Einsatzgruppen).

Harry himself was one 270 people who survived the ‘death march’ to Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia, which began with 3000 prisoners.

The Nazi’s also massacred an estimated 5,000,000 people who were not specifically Jewish during the Holocaust – including Jehovah’s Witnesses, communists, Soviet prisoners of war, and Romani and Polish people.

Gerard Goshawk, minister at Six Ways Baptist Church and part of Everyone Erdington, told Erdington Local: “We are pleased once again to be marking Holocaust Memorial Day here in Erdington. What we offer is an intimate, accessible and meaningful event to mark this really significant occasion.

“Those of us organising it and those taking part recognise the importance of remembering the evil of genocide and making sure that our community here in Erdington remains strong and positive in celebrating diversity and challenging discrimination and hatred.”

Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton added: “As we mark Holocaust Memorial Day, we will honour those who were murdered during the Holocaust and pay tribute to those who survived.

“Holocaust Memorial Day is an important opportunity for people Erdington, Kingstanding and Castle Vale to reflect on one of the darkest periods in world history and ensure we always stand together against antisemitism, demonisation and hate.”

Erdington Ward Councillors Gareth Moore and Robert Alden have been attending the Holocaust Memorial Day events in Erdington since they began in 2017.

Cllr Gareth Moore told Erdington Local: “It has become a welcome tradition that here in Erdington we have a yearly event, organised by Everyone Erdington, paying our respects and remembering those who lives where stolen in such tragic acts.”

Cllr Robert Alden, who studied the Holocaust as part of his history education and has visited the infamous Aushwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, added: “It is vital that we remember genocide events such as the Holocaust, however we must also ensure that such events are never allowed to happen again.

“It would be a grave mistake if we were to assume that the horrific incidents of the past cannot happen again that is why it is on us all to be vigilant and to remind people of the things that we all have in common not the differences.

“This why programmes like British Values in our schools are so important, they remind everyone of the things we have in common, of the shared values that everyone can have regardless of race, wealth or sex.

“Once you have visited Aushwitz-Birkeneau the feeling it leaves in you doesn’t go away, it stays with you, it is important that people come together to remember but looking forward we must continue to ensure it can never happen again.”

Everyone Erdington will hold a free Holocaust Memorial Day event on Friday 27 January at 1:30pm, on the Village Green at the end of Erdington High Street – opposite Erdington Library.

For more from Everyone Erdington visit: www.facebook.com/EveryoneErdington

For more on Holocaust Memorial Day visit: www.hmd.org.uk