I hope you and your families are in the best of health. It has been about 8 weeks since my last message to you all, at that time I think most of us had no idea of what was to come and how our lives would change so much.
I will share in this message an update on crime but more importantly what my officers and I have been doing to keep you all safe.
To be clear the figures I will use are a comparison between 2 periods, April 1st 2020 to today (11/05/20) vs the same dates in 2019.
Sutton Coldfield has seen significant reductions in crime, overall crime shows a 35% reduction with 221 less victims of crime, robbery shows an 85% reduction with 17 less victims of robbery, house burglaries show an 80% reduction in crime with 70 less victims of burglary and finally vehicle crime shows a 44% reduction with 42 less victims. However like most areas we have seen a small increase in domestic abuse with a 19% increase which is 12 extra victims, I will talk more about this later on.
Erdington has seen reductions albeit not to the levels of Sutton Coldfield, overall crime shows a 3% reduction which is 42 less victims of crime, robbery shows an 28% reduction with 10 less victims of robbery, house burglaries show an 27% reduction with 20 less victims of burglary and vehicle crime shows a 44% reduction with 68 less victims. However like Sutton Coldfield we have seen a significant rise in domestic abuse with a 41% increase which is 67 extra victims.
Particularly around burglary, the number one reason for this reduction is that you have all been staying at home and keeping your houses secure. For me this further demonstrates the value of target hardening your homes particularly when you are away and it is a message I will continue to push. By target hardening I mean the physical security improvements you can make such as installing an alarm, cctv cameras, anti-snap locks but also things like locking the porch door, leaving windows locked when not home, letting neighbours know if you will be away so they can keep a look out etc. I will also share some results of a survey we have been conducting over the last 6 weeks or so, were we have contacted every victim of burglary over the last 12 months in Sutton Coldfield and Erdington to understand better the impact the crime had on them and the subsequent changes they have made so that it helps shape our crime prevention strategy around this going forward.
Finally we have as I noted above seen a dreadful rise in domestic abuse, we anticipated this would be one of the consequence of the stay at home message. In my last message I mentioned that arresting outstanding offenders for domestic abuse was a critical force mission and you will be pleased to hear that despite Covid it has continued to be the case, and all my teams are clear that our number 1 priority every morning is to go out and make attempts to arrest offenders who have committed domestic abuse offences, we have for example in the last week arrested 5 offenders for domestic abuse offences ranging from serious assaults to online harassment. For more information on the wider force response please visit - https://www.west-midlands.police.uk/news/protecting-domestic-abuse-survivors-during-home-lockdown
Our primary goal around covid and the social distancing restrictions that came into place has been around saving lives and keeping people safe.
Our Chief Constable, Dave Thompson was very clear with the operational direction from the offset he wanted from us–a 4 E approach - Engage, Explain, Encourage and then as a very last resort to Enforce. I have to stay with most people we haven’t need to go past the first 3 E’s which has at times required patience but I feel it has been and continues to be the right approach.
Operation Colonel is name of the operation which is our overt/ visible response to Covid so we have locations which are identified as tier 1, 2, 3 – tier one sites have up till recently had a permanent presence, we have recently reduced this slightly, tier two get a minimum of 2 visits a day, and tier three have passing attention during the day. These locations are a combination of hospitals, shops, high footfall shopping areas and public spaces such as parks. To give you an idea of the scale of this daily response across Sutton Coldfield and Erdington, we have 1 tier one location, 84 tier 2 locations and 8 tier 3 locations.
I would say that the vast majority of our communities have tried their best to comply with the restrictions and this has meant that we haven’t had to take formal action on too many occasions. I can think of about 8 arrests / charges to date for persons for Covid breaches in Sutton and Erdington, with some of these there have been other substantial offences. We have issued a small number of fixed penalty notices and we have formally closed 5 business premises who should not have been opening, we also encouraged lots of others to voluntarily close early on, which they did do. So locations which are causing challenges:
Erdington High Street –
Is our number one location for repeated breaches and continues to present challenges, the problem remains 2 fold. Firstly, a high number of shops/ banks open in a confined area making it difficult to observe social distancing, which in turn attracts large numbers of the community who while not blatantly breaching restrictions are wondering between shops and socialising between their shopping. Secondly individuals who regularly gather in groups to drink. You should see some improvements imminently from the local authority around the high street with the suspension of parking bays so that pavements can be extended for pedestrians, more information here - https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/erdington-kings-heath-wider-pavements-18218831 . Around the regular drinkers, we are continuing to use anti social behaviour legislation to issue warnings, we are working with substance misuse charities to offer help and we are also looking at measures we can take to make the particular areas they frequent most less attractive to them.
Sutton Park –
While this has improved, early on we were seeing large numbers in the park who in the excuse of exercise appeared to be flouting the restrictions, there has been a permanent presence of 2 local authority park rangers in the park during the day, we have seen a noticeable improvement ourselves during our patrols and also a drop in complaints about Covid breaches in the park.
I would like to finish this message by thanking all of our communities who have been responsible in adhering to the restrictions which I have no doubt have played their part in protecting the NHS and saving lives. I would like to particularly thank 2 groups of people; firstly, young people who have on the whole been exemplary. We have seen very little complaints or observed them breaching Covid restrictions or committing anti-social behaviour. I can only imagine how difficult this time has been for them. Secondly, the Erdington Task Force. I have been lucky to be part of this group of 40 organisations who have been working tirelessly to support vulnerable members of the community with collecting food and medicine to offering friendship. I take great pride and hope in this task force and the immense work they are doing. For more details on their work, please visit - https://updatebrum.co.uk/c19supportbrum/erdington-taskforce-keeping-residents-and-communities-safe/
Thanks for reading this and all your support. Haroon
Message sent by
Haroon Chughtai (Police, Inspector, Birmingham East, Sutton and Erdington)