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.
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.