The Shadow Home Secretary has spoken of an “extraordinarily worrying” rise in violent crime on a visit to Coventry two days after a triple shooting in the city.
Nick Thomas-Symonds said he was “distressed” to learn of the gun attack outside a Chinese takeaway in Far Gosford Street on Thursday night (September 17).
Mr Thomas-Symonds, who accompanied neighbourhood officers from West Midlands Police on a ‘knife sweep’, called on the Government to “take a lead” in stemming the violence.
He took part in the walkabout in Edgwick Park, before visiting nearby Henley Community Centre, which is run by the Moat House Community Trust charity.
Three men were injured in the shooting outside a takeaway in Far Gosford Street, with police conducting a major investigation into the incident.
Mr Thomas-Symonds said: “I was very distressed to read about that and I know there’s an ongoing investigation so I’m limited in what I can say specifically but obviously I hope people with information will help West Midlands Police with their enquiries.
“But I’m afraid that incident was not an isolated incident. Around the country, what we are seeing is an extraordinarily worrying rise in violent crime.
“Across the West Midlands there have been two thousand police officers lost over the last ten years.
“What do you see from that? Knife crime since 2012 here in the West Midlands has more than doubled.
“Those two things are not unrelated and I think this is a real crisis of violent crime.
“At Westminster the Serious Violent Crime taskforce that was set up a few years ago hasn’t actually met since June 2019 so the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary need to take a lead and co-ordinate from the very top and act.
“Excellent work is taking place on the frontline in communities like this one where I’ve been out with the police and the crime commissioner, but we need that leadership from the top strategically to deal with issues around the country. These communities deserve better than the levels of violent crime we are seeing.”
David Jamieson, West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, who also joined police in Foleshill today (Saturday, September 20) gave a stark assessment of violent crime levels as he reacted to the shooting.
Mr Jamieson said: “I wrote a paper back in June saying that if we didn’t take action, particularly with young men and unemployment, then we would see a whole load of violence coming about and I think it could even get worse yet. It’s reached new levels of violence.
“There’s violence for all sorts of different reasons, some of it’s fairly low level stuff on the street with the night-time economy. Now what we are seeing is the drugs market has been disrupted by Covid-19 and gangs are back fighting for their territory and that’s why this horrible stuff is going on. It’s Coventry, it’s Birmingham, it’s the Black Country, it’s everywhere.
“But Coventry, I think, has been particularly badly hit. From a historical perspective, Coventry hasn’t seen that level of violence for many years.”
Mr Jamieson pinpointed unemployment as one of the underlying factors fuelling violent crime.
He said: “The police are in communities, they are out in numbers.
“We are depleted in numbers because of the cuts but nevertheless, what we heard this morning when we were out in the park is that community policing is what’s valuable.
“We need those bobbies out on the streets and we need tough policing.
“But we have got to address unemployment, we have mass unemployment and Coventry has faced that in the past and has a whole new generation of it now, which is going to be more difficult to solve.
“That’s why we are looking to the mayor and the Government and how we are actually going to get training and employment for young people to restart their lives again in a way that’s going to be very challenging.”
The delegation also met with Simon Foster, the Labour candidate in next May’s elections for the Police and Crime Commissioner role, who says he will place an extra officer in every council ward if he succeeds Mr Jamieson.
Dianne Williams, the Trust’s chief executive, told the visitors that there were no quick fixes to crime and unemployment, and that work to steer young people away from negative influences needed to begin in primary school.
“This is a crisis and we are back in the 70s and 80s where young people can’t get a trade or a job and become unemployable,” Mrs Williams said.
“There’s no magic answer, we need to stop having short-term initiatives.”
The Government said in July 2020 that police forces had recruited an additional 4,000 officers as part of its campaign to increase overall strength by 20,000.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said at the time that the move was “delivering on people’s priorities” and the police had her “unwavering” support.