Inner city Birmingham is facing growing crime and a loss of confidence in the police as a result of spending cuts, an MP has claimed.
Khalid Mahmood (Lab Perry Barr) said cuts in officer numbers, the loss of community support officers and plans to close police stations overnight were sending the message that criminals would not be caught.
He said his constituency had already experienced an increase in crime – with Asian families targeted by criminals on the lookout for gold jewellery.
Official figures do not back up Mr Mahmood’s claim that crime has increased across the constituency, but the MP said there was anecdotal evidence of a major rise in certain areas.
Traditional Asian jewellery, which can be decades old and passed from one generation to the next as wedding gifts, has shot up in value as the price of gold has risen during the global economic crisis. Gold currently sells for £1,116 an ounce – up from £346 five years ago.
The outspoken comments come from an MP who has a history of supporting the police and has praised them for building strong links with the community in his constituency, an ethnically diverse area of the city which saw rioting in 2005 and 1985.
Mr Mahmood said the force’s success in building good relations was being put at risk as it struggled to cut spending by £126 million, following cuts in grants from central government.
He said: “We’ve lost 67 officers across the Lozells and East Handsworth ward. That’s a huge number.
“You’ve got community support officers that are not there any more.
“The local police aren’t being supported, despite a very good effort by a lot of very good officers. If you haven’t got the resources you can’t do something.”
The MP also highlighted plans to close Handsworth police station in Thornhill Road overnight. The station is currently open 24 hours a day.
“It’s about the representation of the police in an area where there’s been all sorts of trouble, all sorts of real issues.
“And just to even close it at night – and we held a meeting where almost 100 people turned up to express concern about this – it’s a symbolic gesture.
“It’s that sense of security you have when you know there is police station which is manned 24 hours. It would mean we are going backwards and giving confidence to the criminal element to start up again.”
Crime was increasing in the area, Mr Mahmood said.
“We’ve had a spate of burglaries. The police have been on to it but they haven’t got their resources, and these people know that. Particularly a lot of the Asian ladies who wear gold have had gold snatched from them in daylight.
“They [criminals] know that there’s nobody around to chase them, so they’ve become much more brazen in doing that.”
The cuts risked undermining the progress made by the police in recent years, he warned.
“Over the last 10 years we’ve had some brilliant community policing.
“We’ve got community support officers on the street who are recognised by residents and who knew what was going on in their areas and worked very hard.
“Local sergeants who were in charge of their small patches in my constituency, particularly in Lozells and Handsworth.