Police chief aims to prevent children falling into crime

A new police chief says early intervention with children from troubled backgrounds is key to stopping them entering a life of crime.

Tom McNeil.
Tom McNeil.

Tom McNeil, a former charity lawyer and Special Constable in the Metropolitan Police, has been named the new West Midlands Assistant Police and Crime Commissioner.

He has pledged to focus on improving support for children in their early years and schools to create better opportunities and steer young people away from crime.

This includes addressing the factors that often lead people to commit crime, whether that be substance misuse, poverty, mental ill health and issues like domestic abuse and homelessness.

It comes as knife crime is rising faster in the West Midlands than anywhere else in the country.

Critics say closure of youth centres in the region and a lack of opportunities for young people is partly behind this.

Mr McNeil will work closely with PCC Simon Foster, who was elected in May.

Mr McNeil said: "The huge numbers of calls around domestic abuse, antisocial behaviour and violent crime that officers deal with day in, day out is real testament to their commitment to protecting people.

“That role gave me a whole new insight into the criminal justice system and policing.

“It also gave me the opportunity to look at why people commit crime. We can avoid so much of this crime if we challenge social problems for children before things get bad. If we tackle the root causes of crime we’ll all be better off.

“In my role I’ll be helping ensure justice is done and that all people are held accountable for crimes.

“But we also need to focus on what works to stop reoffending, such as employment, mental health support, addiction treatment and working with locals councils to ensure we have good housing.

Mr McNeil, who grew up in Balsall Heath, Birmingham, added: “My family heritage and experience has really shaped who I am today. My grandfather was of the Windrush generation, he came to the UK and worked as a bus driver in the West Midlands. My nan came from Italy and worked as a carer for many years.

“We were a low income family that needed welfare support when times were tough, including during family breakdown.

“But thankfully support like free school meals, educational maintenance allowance but most importantly teachers that believed in me gave me opportunities that meant I was able to have a successful legal career as well as now having a young family of my own.”

“I’m proud to have come from humble roots to be in this position where I can help Simon Foster make change.

“I can’t wait to work with our communities to prevent crime and make stronger, happier communities."

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