Anti-social behaviour is something that comes up a lot in my surgeries and local neighbourhood meetings. It ranges from anti-social parking to more sinister acts, which are sometimes actually just plain criminality.
Following these discussions, I personally investigated the issue – going above and behind the role requirements of being a local Councillor and putting my own personal safety at risk. I did this because I wanted to understand the problem first-hand and also to try and understand the root causes of the problems in the Church Hill area.
I have chatted with a number of groups of youths – some more approachable than others. Indeed, some were outright hostile and aggressive, and this is concerning. In the vast majority of encounters, however, the young people were good kids who were just a bit bored. They gather for a variety of reasons – parents have turfed them out, they’re bored at home, whatever.
Eventually, a group of friends is formed, which is then in danger of being turned into a gang with a bit of help from outside influence perhaps. This is where so-called ‘County Lines’ comes in – this is where drug dealers exploit young people in towns like Redditch so they can shift drugs out of Birmingham (or even the other way around). The young people get a bit of money for their troubles (sometimes, and not much) and they get a trip on a train or in a car to do the work. They are the Deliveroo service for drugs.
I have been concerned about the possibility of County Lines gangs operating in Church Hill, so I have been working with the Borough Council and West Mercia Police to do whatever we can to intervene early and appropriately, especially amongst the young people in the area.
I have had some specific actions carried out around Church Hill Centre to improve the effectiveness of the CCTV cameras in the area, which I believe has had a noticeable impact.
I have also met with police and Borough Council officials to look at what options we can explore to support diversion activities and interventions to try and ensure our young people are not susceptible to County Lines and are resilient enough to know not to be sucked in.
We do have some youth services in Church Hill, but they are not enough. They’ve been cut too much by central Government, and as a Conservative politician in the area, it is deeply regretful that a Conservative government has done this. So I continue to lobby Rachel Maclean MP and others across politics to make the case for strong investment into youth services.
Have you witnessed anti-social behaviour in Church Hill?
Complete the form below to tell me about your experiences so I can work hard with our partners to tackle this issue.