'No-go areas' warning after spike in gun crime across West Midlands

Parts of the region will end up becoming “no-go areas” due to fears over violence, MPs have warned as figures revealed how gun crime has surged in the West Midlands.

Rising gun crime has sparked fears that parts of the region could become 'no-go areas'
Rising gun crime has sparked fears that parts of the region could become 'no-go areas'

The West Midlands has seen a spike in gun crime over the past five years, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) - with 721 firearms offences recorded in the year to March.

The figure represents a three per cent rise on the previous year and a 17 per cent over five years.

Only London had a higher rate on 1,281 firearms offences, a drop of 27 per cent, while gun crime also fell in most other areas of the country.

It comes as the West Midlands was the only area in the country to see a rise in overall crime amid a surge in violent offences, as senior officers admitted the force was struggling to cope with a huge spike in demand.

In recent months the region has seen a spate of shootings.

Last week a 33-year-old man was shot in Whitmore Reans, Wolverhampton, while in a separate incident shots were fired at a house in Walsall in what police believe was a targeted attack.

An alleged drive-by-shooting took place in Netherton at the start of the month, two weeks after teenager Kimani Martin was shot and killed while sitting in a taxi in Tividale.

The ONS figures include a double murder on a Brierley Hill industrial estate in September, which saw Will Henry, 31, and Brian McIntosh, 29, gunned down.

Sir David Thompson, Chief Constable of West Midlands Police, said the force would continue to be tough on offenders.

"We will seek to prosecute those who break the law cause harm to communities," he said.

The figures have prompted concern across the region, with Conservative MP Mike Wood calling on Labour police and crime commissioner Simon Foster to “stop making excuses” and “deliver the safe streets that the public deserves”.

Others have warned that parts of the region were at risk of becoming “no-go areas” due to fears over public safety.

Mr Foster, who succeeded David Jamieson in May, has continued his predecessor’s political attacks, saying extra pressures on police were down to Tory government cuts to the force’s budget.

Dudley South MP Mr Wood said: “When every other police force in the country, whether they are urban or rural, is seeing big falls in crime and we are seeing an increase, the new police and crime commissioner needs to stop making excuses and look at what can be done to reverse this extremely worrying trend, and deliver the safe streets that the public deserve."

Stuart Anderson, Conservative MP for Wolverhampton South West, said rising violent crime was one of his biggest concerns.

“Everyone should have the right to feel safe in the streets that they live on,” he said.

“The fact is that we have got a rise in gun crime - and it’s bucking the national trend.

“It is no good blaming a lack of resources when pretty much everywhere else in the country is able to reduce crime. It shows there is a serious problem here.

"We need a stronger police presence within the community. People need to know that the police are taking this seriously, otherwise places will rapidly spiral downhill and end up becoming no-go areas.

“All the investment we are having in Wolverhampton will count for nothing if people are afraid to go out of their front door.”

West Midlands Police Chief Constable, Sir David Thompson, said: “One gun or knife-related crime is one too many. We have seen people suffer very serious injuries, we have seen the impact on families and we have seen mainly young men face the consequences and spend many years behind bars.

"Our approach continues to be tough on offenders. We will seek to prosecute those who break the law cause harm to communities.

"We will also look at how we can best deter and persuade young people from carrying a weapon and help them make the right choices. Listening to communities is an important part of this process.

"There are great parts of the community supporting us through all of this, and we’re working with other agencies as well to try and make our towns and cities safe for local people.”

Mr Foster said: said he was "incredibly concerned" about gun crime and that "constant and unremitting action" was needed to get guns out of the hands of criminals.

“Almost all firearms offences relate to drugs," he said. "Clearly, taking the fight to the organised drugs gangs is vital in our approach to tackling county lines, preventing the exploitation of young people and getting weapons off the streets.

“We’ve expanded the size of our gangs team to tackle these problems and at the election I pledged to put 450 police officers into community policing.”

“The Violence Reduction Unit is working around the clock on preventing violence in all its forms as well as tackling the root causes of violent crime."

In the latest ONS figures crime went up by four per cent in the year to March, with violence against the person surging by 34 per cent after 122,875 violent offences were recorded.

Violent attacks now make up nearly half of all recorded crime in the West Midlands, which the force largely puts down to a rise in recorded domestic abuse.

West Midlands Police lost more than 2,000 officers over 10 years amid budget cuts.

However, the force had the biggest funding increase outside the Met this year, and is getting 1,200 officers by 2023 as part of the Government’s police uplift programme.

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