Words & pics by Ed King
Erdington is set to get a permanent police Inspector, as the constituency’s temporary ‘top cop’ Rachel Derby will be leaving Birmingham to join the Staffordshire force.
After Erdington’s previous Inspector, Haroon Chughtai, left the constituency in January 2022 – being promoted to Chief Inspector to work in Counter Terrorism – Rachel Derby was the police’s trusted pair of hands who took over whilst a long-term placement was being found.
Nearly a year later and following a “robust HR process” from West Midlands Police, Erdington is about to welcome a full time Inspector to take over the Neighbourhood Police Unit (NPU) and deliver the on-street strategy for combatting crime in the area.
In the final recruitment stages, West Midlands Police will be announcing the name of the new Erdington Inspector “imminently”.
Currently on annual leave, Temporary Inspector Rachel Derby worked her last shift in Erdington on Friday 14 October – handing over to Police Sargeant Frances Clark, who stands as the coordinator for the local NPUs and has a proven track record in community policing.
A spokesperson from West Midlands Police told Erdington Local: “Temporary Inspector Rachel Darby developed excellent relationships with communities in Erdington during her time policing the constituency.
“Rachel is going to Staffordshire Police on promotion next month and is currently on a two-week period of annual leave before she officially transfers.
“In the meantime, Sergeant Fran Clark has oversight of Sutton & Erdington constituency as the coordinator supported by the senior leadership team which is not unusual when Inspectors are on leave.
“This includes a dedicated local policing Chief Inspector and Superintendent who have ownership and responsibility for Birmingham East Neighbourhood Policing Unit.
“We have robust HR processes in place to fill Rachel’s post. This work is currently being done and Rachel’s successor will be starting imminently.”
Since 2010, the West Midlands has seen £175m pulled from its policing budget – losing around 2000 officers, 25% in active service and over 50% allocated to community policing.
Erdington suffers from one of the highest crime rates in the city, with regular calls for more police presence from Erdington residents, community groups, and constituency stakeholders.
In December last year, a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) was reinstated around Erdington High Street – giving local police the power to forcibly remove anyone from the ‘Restricted Area’ they suspect to be intoxicated or causing anti-social behaviour.
Despite being widely welcomed by many who live and work in the Erdington ward, since the PSPO came back into being – having previously operated until 2018 – some local residents feel the extended police authority has made minimal impact.
One Church Road resident, who lives a short walk form Erdington High Street, told: “I thought the idea of the PSPO was great, but it doesn’t seem to have made a difference.
“Earlier this year a man was nearly beaten to death outside Greggs. Things like that shouldn’t be allowed to happen on a busy High Street with a police station five minutes away.
“I can see the High Street from my kitchen window and I hear fights and drunken arguments nearly every night.
“We need more police on the street, plain and simple – at the moment the High Street is basically policed by the Street Warden and some very dedicated Community Support Officers.”
Paulette Hamilton MP has had tackling crime in the constituency high on her agenda since taking office in May this year.
The Erdington Member of Parliament will be bringing the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, Simon Foster, to discuss issues over crime with local partners in January 2023 – at her regular ‘Big Conversation’ event.
Simon Foster previously came to Erdington for a tour of the High Street with the late Jack Dromey MP in November 2021, and to meet with the newly formed Street Pastors.
During the visit he told Erdington Local: “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.”