I have of late become concerned about the apparent reduction in the presence of police officers 'on the ground' in Birmingham City Centre. Until quite recently uniformed officers (both regular police and 'Community Support Officers') along with a mobile CCTV van were a common sight around the city centre, both daytime and late in the evening. Now, aside from special events and the occasional CSO during the day, they are not to be seen. I am aware that there are many fixed CCTV cameras around the area, but these seem to provide little if any deterrant and certainly are unable to provide anything by way of direct assistance to members of the public who are victims of crime. Plus many are privately owned and not monitored out of business hours.
This raises a number of concerns for public safety.
For example, last night I was entering the top end of New Street, from Victoria Square, a little after 10pm, having just taken my sister and her two children to see "The Wizard of Oz" at the Rep Theatre. Two black (African or West Indian) men, appearing to be in their late teens or twenties, were walking in the opposite direction. As they past us one started to shout at me calling me a "F**king Jew" (please excuse the use of profanity, I just want to ensure that you appreciate the tone of his speech) and other antisemitic statements (I am not Jewish but, presumably because I have a full beard and tend to wear black, occasionally some people assume that I am). Up until this point none of us had even looked at either of them, although obviously his statements at that point drew our attention. His companion then started walking towards me and threatened to "F**k [me] up good." (again, I appologise for repeating his use of profanity). Before I could react the one who had made the initial statements called him off and they hurried away.
I realise that nothing there would have resulted in any police officer wittnessing the scene to have arrested either of them and that if they were arrested the CPS would have declined to prosecute, deeming threats of violence against an individual to be too trivial to take to court. Which, along with the fact that they would be long gone before any police officers might show up, is why I did not call the police as soon as they were out of sight and earshot. I do, however, believe that if there had been a visible police presence the odds are that the event would not have happened and they would have just walked past.
Pleae bear in mind here that we're not talking about something that happened in some rarely travelled back street. We're talking about something that happened in a major thoroughfare of Birmingham City Centre, a principle route from the entertainment areas of Centenary Square and Broad Street to New Street station and the bus stops and taxi ranks around Corporation Street. There is a low but continuous flow of people through that area at that time of the evening.
I know that in the long term issues around urban poverty and the lack of positive male role models for boys and young men (the dress of the man who threatened me seemed to be straight out of a "50-Cent" video or one of the recent "Grand Theft Auto" console games) need to be resolved to reduce such occurances. I do feel that in the short term a visible police presence around the city centre would go a long way to breaking the cycle of violent behaviour.
Your's most faithfully,
NB where I have 'sanitised' words with ** here (to avoid tripping concent scanners) I left them unammended in the origial letter.