Birmingham Residents Patrol Streets to Tackle Rise in Crime

Residents in Handsworth Wood will start patrolling the streets in an attempt to help tackle crime in the area.

Street Watch, a joint partnership between police and local communities, has been introduced after 215 crimes were recorded there throughout February.

Though they have no powers to make arrests, volunteers receive special training from the police and are expected to commit to a minimum of two hours per month.

West Midlands Police said: “Patrols are non-confrontational and aimed at improving neighbourhoods by identifying issues such as graffiti and criminal damage.

“We have seen a huge improvement in community confidence and information sharing with the local policing teams.”

A risk assessment is also undertaken to ensure all parties are protected as much as possible.

Narinder Kaur Kooner, councillor for the Handsworth Wood ward, said: “None of us are professionals in this field but residents want to be able to look after our families and neighbourhood.”

Inspector Iftekhar Ahmed of West Midlands Police, who co-ordinates Street Watch, said: “Street Watch has operated well across the country.

“In the space of three months, we have set up schemes across the whole of the West Midlands and currently have 125 members, with interest growing on a daily basis. We are hoping to have 500 new members in 2018.”

Sukhvinder Kaur, a street watch warden, said: “Residents are usually happy to see us and there is a sense of reassurance that we are watching the streets. We have had people stop and speak to us and even come out of their homes.”

Community activist Desmond Jaddoo also welcomed the Street Watch initiative and said: “There is a greater need for partnership between the police and local communities.

“Communities have a proactive role to play in crime prevention.”

He spoke of the need for Street Watch to be able to tackle the differing issues in each neighbourhood and the fractured relationship between police and some communities.

He said: “More often than not, communities feel that the police pick and choose the crimes they respond to. It’s all about building bridges because people need to regain trust and confidence in the police.

“For areas like Handsworth Wood, there is the issue with the high rise in burglaries and fly tipping where as in places like Newtown, the issues are drug abuse and the high percentage of gun and knife crimes.

“You have to make sure the mechanism works for each individual area and that it’s sustainable.”

Residents in Birmingham Vent Anger over HMOs

Residents in Handsworth Wood have spoken out against the rise in shared houses in the area, labelling them a ‘blight on our neighbourhoods’.

Fly-tipping from tenants in HMOs (houses in multiple occupation) continues to be an issue for residents who say ‘the beauty of Handsworth Wood is slowly being eroded’.

HMOs are properties rented out to at least 3 people who share facilities like the bathroom and kitchen.

Ruth Lockley, who has lived in the area for 38 years, said: “residents are struggling to maintain the cleanliness of their road whilst tolerating such a level of disruption to their lives.”

Recently, the Handsworth Wood Residents’ Association registered their concerns to the council over an application to convert 78 Handsworth Wood Road into a 14-bedroom HMO complaining that ‘HMOs in the area are already being visited by police regularly, giving great concern to neighbours.’

Currently, any landlord wishing to rent out a property as a HMO must apply for a licence from the council.

Each licence lasts five years after which it must be renewed.

Lorraine Briscoe, a resident in the Handsworth Wood area, said: “Many landlords are just interested in the money and not the effect a HMO can have on an area.

“They often let a room to one person who brings in two other people to share the one room.”

At present the council does not have any enforcement powers over private rented sector tenants but work closely with landlords of registered HMOs to improve accommodation standards.

A spokesperson for Birmingham City Council said: “The council has approved an approach to consider the use of Selective Licensing powers, which will help us to identify where landlords are meeting safe and proper standards.

They added: “Handsworth Wood is one of the areas we would like to look at, however we would need to consult with residents before making any decision.”

Martin White, a resident who moved to Handsworth Wood in the 90s, said: “I have loved and still love living in Handsworth Wood but do notice that things have changed quickly over the last few years and I do think that HMOs are part of the problem.

“I am a landlord and have recently filled in the survey for Birmingham City council asking whether I thought licenses for landlords was a good idea.

“I don’t relish the idea of having to pay a licence fee, but if that’s what it takes to force landlords to be responsible, then maybe a proportionate, sensible license fee is the way to go.”