Words & pics by Ed King
On Saturday 13 November, the Erdington Street Pastors were joined on their morning patrol by West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Foster – walking with the team up and down Erdington High Street.
“I think it’s a brilliant initiative and I’ve been very pleased to support it as Police and Crime Commissioner.
“It really does help the neighbourhood police teams; helping them prevent crime, protect people, and ensuring that vulnerable people are kept safe.”
Erdington MP Jack Dromey, who also joined the Street Pastors and Simon Foster on patrol and talking to people on Erdington High Street, added: “The Street Pastors reassure the local community that the High Street is a welcoming place that they can go to.
“As Simon (Foster) has said, they reach to and put their arms around sometimes some of the most vulnerable in our community who have fallen through the net and as a consequence of which sometime behave badly.”
A global initiative, Street Pastors are currently active in over 240 cities and town across the UK – including 20 in the West Midlands alone. Twelve Street Pastors have been patrolling Erdington High Street since their ‘commissioning’ on Saturday 18 September.
Working with the police and local community leaders/groups, the Street Pastors help tackle issues around anti-social behaviour and public disturbances, whilst offering a friendly face for anyone who needs help or just wants to talk.
Pastor Rasaq Ibrahim is lead pastor at the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) in Erdington and Chair of the Erdington Street Pastors, who joined with churches across Erdington to bring the inititive to the area.
An active Street Pastor himself, Pastor Rasaq led the Saturday morning team on patrol with Simon Foster and Joack Dromey. He told Erdington Local: “It’s greta to have Simon (Foster) join us on patrol in Erdington, he has been humbly walking with us for two hours – meeting popel and seeing what we do.
“Erdington Street Pastor have been well supported by the West Midlands Crime Commissioner’s office and we look forward to building on that partnership.”
But since 2010 the West Midlands has had £175m pulled from its policing budget, seeing a drop of over 2000 police officers – around 25% of those in active service, and over 50% allocated to community policing..
Recently re-elected as Police and Crime Commissioner for the region, Simon Foster has put this top of his agenda.
He added: “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.”
He explained: “If you lose 2000 police officers, if you lose so much of the social fabric that diverts young people from crime, what you see as day follows night is a rising crime and that’s wrong.
“Time, and time, and time again I get people who come to my surgery – people I’ve met today on the High Street here with Simon (Foster) – who say, at the most extreme, we’re afraid to go out at night, we no longer feel comfortable in our community, on our High Street. That is absolutely and fundamentally wrong.”
For more information about the Erdington Street Pastors and to see if you can get involved email Pastor Rasaq at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more on the Street Pastors initiative visit www.streetpastors.org