West Midlands Police Chief Constable Craig Guildford is “determined to put more resources into local (policing)” and assures local retailers “when our operating model changes there will be a higher level of visibility” and police presence in areas such as Erdington High Street.
Following our feature last week titled ‘Erdington retailers are losing thousands on “lawless” High Street scourged by shoplifters’, Erdington Local met with the region’s most senior police officer to discuss crime in the once busy shopping district.
As part of the Strategic Policing and Crime Board’s (PSCB) monthly meeting, chaired by Assistant Police and Crime Commissioner Tom McNeil, the urgent plight of Erdington’s High Streeet retailers was presented directly to the WMP Chief Constable.
Issues including a lack of police presence on the High Street, the Public Space Protection Order, CCTV, and better support for the existing shop security and Erdington Street Warden were all raised – with a particular focus given to shops that report crimes and claim no effective police response.
According to many High Street retailers, repeat and violent offenders are also left unchallenged by local law enforcement – with some shoplifters let go by police who attend the scene, even after being caught on CCTV stealing hundreds of pounds worth of goods and detained by shop security.
“Because if a shopkeeper is ringing up, and there’s a shoplifter there to be arrested, that’s being a pain in the backside, we need to go and deal with it.”
He added: “But proportionately. Sometimes if that shoplifter is of a young age, or it’s a lower value item, we may… try and use restorative justice to prevent reoffending. And I also support the officers in doing that.
“But sometimes, from a business owners perspective, that might not be the best thing since sliced bread.”
Alongside no immediate response to potentially dangerous situations, one store manager also previously explained:
“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.”
The failings of the 999 and 101 numbers were also on the Strategic Policing and Crime Board agenda, with Chief Constable Craig Guildford “less content with our position on 101s” but looking to introduce “a raft of measures” to improve the service that the force is “moving forward with at pace.”
He also urged larger local retailers to “up their own security” and build a bigger “provision of security to deter some of these offences… to make sure the most resources can be applied to the problem.”
In a Valentines Day meeting with the Erdington Business Improvement District (BID) and local retailers, held at the request of Paulette Hamilton MP, Erdington’s then serving Sergeant Simon Wheeler also urged High Street businesses to use 101 to report crime – explaining the numbers of reports can affect how many officers are deployed in an area.
But despite “regular meetings” between the police and Erdington BID “to share concerns and agree approaches”, the 14 February event was the first time several retailers had met either Sergeant Wheeler or the BID’s new Town Centre Manager, John Hodgkiss – both of whom came into post around six to eight months ago.
When questioned if this was an appropriate amount of time for such representatives to have made contact with local retailers, especially under the shadow of constant complaints around crime on the High Street, Chief Constable Guildford responded:
“I definitely need people to report, to ring 999, if there’s a shoplifter detained that’s kicking off or assaulting anybody.
“And at the same time, I’d also encourage (people) to engage the BID and encourage the local businesses to work with the BID as well.
“It sounds like the new person may be able to facilitate more of that.”