Police commissioner describes spate of knife attacks as ‘national emergency’

A slew of stabbings across two major cities has been described as a “national emergency” by West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson.

Speaking after three teenagers died in knife attacks in two weeks in Birmingham, Mr Jamieson called on the Home Secretary to give his area a special policing grant to tackle the problem.

Hazrat Umar, 17, was killed in Bordesley Green on Monday; Abdullah Muhammad, 16, died in Small Heath last week; and seven days earlier Sidali Mohamed, 16, was stabbed outside a college in Highgate.

The attacks were among 269 knife crimes recorded so far this year in the West Midlands.

There have been 17 homicides in London in 2019, six of which happened in nine days. On Tuesday alone, five people were stabbed, four of whom were attacked in less than eight hours and one who died.

Patrols are being boosted across the capital, including by the Met’s Violent Crime Taskforce and teams from the gang violence, roads, dogs and neighbourhood units.

Birmingham knife attacks
West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson (Richard Vernalls/PA)

Speaking to the media in the Dale End area of Birmingham on Wednesday, Mr Jamieson said: “I would ask the Home Secretary now, to give a special grant here in the West Midlands to help the Chief Constable and his staff actually tackle what is a serious outbreak of violence we’ve seen here in Birmingham and other parts of the West Midlands.

“Many of the children who are getting involved in these crimes have been excluded from their school.

“This is a national emergency, and we must do something about that exclusion of children because those children are on almost an immediate path into crime and into violence.”

He continued: “Certainly we’ve got a very high level of knife crime here, there’s no escaping that – and they’ve got a real problem in parts of London.”

As part of “emergency” measures, officers in Birmingham are being given sweeping powers to stop and search suspects.

For the first time ever, the Section 60 Order will cover the whole of Birmingham and will run until 3am on Thursday, police said.

Chief Constable David Thompson said: “In my mind this has become a real emergency this week in terms of the work we need to do as the police.

“Resources are an issue but they should not get in the way of the police response to an emergency issue that this is.”

Mr Thompson continued: “I’m afraid on this story… about the deaths of young men, we use the words ‘tipping point’ too often – so I have deliberately not used them today.

“I think we’ve been really clear that the force has reached a level, where in police officer numbers, it is smaller than it was in 1974.”

Mr Thompson told reporters the rate of knife crime was increasing across all major cities.

Addressing the policing grant, a source close to the commissioner said: “We are working with West Midlands Police to put forward a bid to the Home Office for a special grant bid, in a matter of weeks”.

In London, Commander Dave Musker urged the public to help stem the tide of attacks.

He said: “Every death or injury is a tragedy and will have a lasting impact on those who knew and were close to the victims.

“The public play a key role in helping to both prevent and detect crime in London.

“We are asking communities to support us and I strongly urge anyone who knows anything about these recent incidents, any violent crimes that have been committed or may be committed in the future, to give information – however small or insignificant it may seem, it could help save lives.”

John Poyton from Redthread, an anti-knife crime charity that works in A&E departments, said “all sectors of society” have to take responsibility for stopping violence.

“It is always devastating to hear of someone losing their life to violence. Sadly, these deaths are just the tip of the iceberg – emergency departments are seeing a steady increase in young people coming in having been caught up in youth violence.

“There is an urgent need to address the trauma some young people experience in their communities which perpetuates further violence.

“It is crucial that all sectors of society take responsibility to tackle violence as a health issue and ensure our communities are healthy, safe and happy for all young people.”

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