Last Wednesday saw the first in what will hopefully be a series of meetings to address issues of crime and anti-social behaviour on parts of the Gospel Estate. We had an excellent turnout - the local police inspector, Jim Gooderidge, PCSO Chelsie Beardsmore and PC Ian Davis, as well as Cllr Stacey and myself, plus the Victims' Champion for Birmingham, Cllr Jess Phillips.
The most impressive thing, however, was the number of residents who made the effort to attend and it was really positive to see such an attendance from people who aren't usual visitors to that meeting - there was scarcely any room left.
We heard from people who have been victims of crime and anti-social behaviour - including the youth worker from the Gospel Oak, who described how their summer programme had to be scrapped this year. We also heard from some of the young people on the Gospel - who I was particularly pleased to see attending the meeting.
I'm always aware when writing about this that Yardley has a problem with the worst level of fear of crime in the city, a fear entirely undeserved when you consider the actual levels of crime over recent years. The problems that we are seeing on this part of the Gospel is a spike in burglaries from sheds and other buildings, thefts from motor vehicles, use of quad bikes and motor bikes, etc. The police are determined to deal with this and we all want to see the estate become a better place to live.
Some of this work ahead will require cross-border co-operation - the estate sits on the edge of Acocks Green, Hall Green and Solihull, crossing police and local authority borders. I'll be liaising with my colleagues in Hall Green - we already work closely to support the Gospel Oak Community Centre, which sits in Hall Green, but serves many people on the Gospel Estate. We'll also be assembling a stakeholders' group (jargon, I know) of the key agencies - Housing, Youth Services, voluntary and third sector - to discuss what further action can be taken and what needs to be done.
There will be further public meetings and we'll also be trying to arrange a meeting involving some of the young people from the estate to identify their needs and see how we can support them.
It is clear that this will not be an easy fix - this area has been ignored for some years and it will take some time to improve things. This couldn't have come at a worse time - with council and policing budgets being slashed by government, our resources to tackle problems like this are severely limited. Cllr Stacey and I will certainly be making every effort to bring whatever resources we can to bear on the problems and I'm confident that my colleagues in Hall Green will be happy to help as well.
If we can maintain and widen the support from local residents, then we're in with a good chance of improving the life of people in that area of the ward.