More work needed on dreadful scourge of gun and knife crime, says commissioner

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Policing alone will not solve the “dreadful” scourge of gun and knife crime, a police and crime commissioner has said following a week of lethal violence.

David Jamieson, who is the West Midlands commissioner, said: “We can’t arrest our way out of this problem.”

He was speaking on Monday after a week of armed attacks across the region which saw promising entrepreneur Adbul Rahman shot dead at a street barbecue, and 16-year-old Ozell Pemberton stabbed to death, in separate incidents in Birmingham.

Ozell Pemberton
Ozell Pemberton, 16, was stabbed to death in Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham, on Thursday. (West Midlands Police/PA)

Latest Office of National Statistics figures showed West Midlands Police’s force area had more than double the national average of gun crimes between 2015 and 2016, with 19 offences per 100,000 residents.

In the Metropolitan Police area, it was 18 per 100,000 over the same period, and in the Greater Manchester Police area the figure was 16.

The number of incidents involving a gun rose by a quarter between 2012 and 2016, while knife crime figures showed a 46% rise over that time.

In August 2017, an unmarked police car was shot at in Ladywood, Birmingham, yards from the street where 18-year-old father-to-be Kenichi Philips had been shot dead in March, the previous year.

His death was the fourth murder shooting across a deadly five months.

In August last year, there were three separate murder stabbings in Oldbury, Solihull and Moseley in Birmingham.

The scourge of violent crime has gripped the second city before, and made national headlines when in January 2003, Letisha Shakespeare and friend Charlene Ellis, 18, were killed in a hail of machine gun fire at a new year’s party.

The warmer weather has coincided with yet another spike in armed violence in the region, with at least three separate non-fatal shootings since May 12.

Although the bins are for knives, they are frequently used to ditch firearms and ammo.

When last emptied in September 2017, two revolvers were recovered complete with eight 9mm shells – alongside almost 200 knives.

Mr Jamieson said: “In the West Midlands we’ve got a problem, no question of that.

“But then you compare it to mainland Europe and America, we’re so tiny in comparison with our problems.

“Nevertheless, it’s important we do something about it.”

Mr Jamieson added a solution to the problem was complex, and while work was going on, “we’ve got to be doing a lot more than we are now”.

He said: “We can’t arrest our way out of this problem.

“We’ve actually got to look at why it is happening, why some young boys, why some young men are actually picking up knives and attacking each other.

“The vast majority of young people are doing really well, working well at school, getting good jobs, eventually going to look after a family.

“But some are finding themselves drawn into violence.”

One of the issues he has raised with schools, government and Ofsted, is the issue of pupil exclusions, where children “find themselves on the street and become part of street gang violence”.

He said: “That’s very worrying.

“It’s a small minority, but actually a minority that’s making a huge impact on our society.”

David Jamieson
Police and crime commissioner David Jamieson said he would like to see the day when the region no longer needs knife surrender bins. (Richard Vernalls/PA)

“We’ve got to look at what those alternatives are for those people and how we keep them in their schools and education.”

He added while knife bins, weapons amnesties and policing were not the only answer, things “would be endlessly worse”, without those and other measures like involving community and faith groups, and like the work of the gangs’ commission to develop a broader strategy.

The commission, which published wide-ranging conclusions at the end of 2017, concluded a link between violent crime and school exclusions, a lack of support for offenders released into the community from jail, and drugs.

About £2 million has since been invested by the police on the report’s 24 recommendations, including bringing in specialist negotiators to broker peace between gangs, hiring people to work in A&E departments to spot violent criminals or possible victims, and an in-schools programme, working with youngsters.

Speaking about the future, Mr Jamieson gestured to the region’s newest knife bin and said: “I’d like to think they can all go eventually, and we can get rid of knife crime.”

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