Jobs will stop West Midlands gang and knife crime says Amber Rudd in Wolverhampton
The gang and knife crime epidemic sweeping the West Midlands could be eradicated by creating more jobs for young people, the Home Secretary has said.
Violent crime, including knife and gun offences, have increased in the region but Amber Rudd said this was not linked to police cuts or a reduction in officer numbers.
She said apprenticeships and 'the prospect' of a career could deter youths from joining gangs and carrying weapons.
But she admitted more needed to be done to understand why young people are turning to knife crime.
Speaking to the Express & Star, she said: "We need to be smarter as to what support we can give young people so they feel less vulnerable and less likely to carry knives.
"I think again it comes back to what we are doing for young people – that their prospects are worth them working for. We have seen the unemployment figures which are some of the best we have seen and we want to make sure we build on that and make sure young people take advantage of apprenticeships.
"Apprenticeships that give young people real hope of a proper career. I think people are less likely to turn to gangs and knife crime if they see themselves having a proper prospect."
She added: "On knife crime I think there is more we need to find out as to why it is being caused and what the underlying causes are.
"Some people think it is gang related, others think it is to do with stop and search, some people think there are other localised causes and I do not want a knee-jerk reaction to say 'this' will solve it. I want to work with the police to get under the skin of the issue to find out what we can do to solve it."
Ms Rudd met members of the Muslim community in Wolverhampton at Dunstall Hill Community Centre with Conservative candidates Paul Uppal and Sarah Macken who are standing in Wolverhampton South West and Wolverhampton North East.
She defended the Government's record on policing and said £140 million budget cuts to the West Midlands force, which has lost 1,700 officers since 2010, could not be blamed for the recent rise of violent crime.
But she said future police budgets would be 'protected'.
Her comments came as West Midlands Deputy Chief Constable Louisa Rolfe said that burglaries, robberies and vehicle crime were rising for the first time in 10 years.
Ms Rudd said: "The biggest period of cuts was between 2010 to 2015 – it was also the time we saw the biggest fall in crime, it fell by a third.
"For 2015 to 2019/20 we have protected the police budget. Nevertheless there are changes to how police are deciding to invest, how to deploy. Crime is continuing to fall in most areas but not in violent crime and knife crime.
"There are different ways of approaching that and different interpretations as to why it is being caused. I would observe that the emphasis on police numbers is not the full story.
"The fact is because we cut so much of the paperwork away for police officers, it was also the equivalent of putting 2,000 officers back on the frontline. We feel the reforms have helped make sure these officers are doing what the need to do which is solving crime and not spending time behind a desk.
"I recognise the need to protect budgets going forward which is what we plan to do."
Mr Uppal said he would be meeting with West Midlands Mayor Andy Street to discuss how more can be done on developing young people's skills in Wolverhampton.