Tory PCC candidate Jay Singh-Sohal: New approach needed on knife crime
A new approach to tackling knife crime is needed in the West Midlands, the man hoping to become the region's next Police and Crime Commissioner has said.
Conservative candidate Jay Singh-Sohal said current PCC David Jamieson had failed on knife crime during his time in office.
Mr Jamieson is not standing for re-election but Mr Singh-Sohal hammered his record on crime, insisting it was time for a change in direction.
He will take on Labour's Simon Foster in May's election.
His comments come after it was revealed last week that knife crime had soared to record levels in the West Midlands, with offences rising at a faster rate than anywhere in the country.
Mr Singh-Sohal, 37, who hails from Handsworth, said the key to tackling alarming knife crime rates is having more officers on the streets and keeping police stations open. He also stressed access to youth centres is vital for young people.
The father-of-two dismissed suggestions Tory cuts were responsible for falling officers and youth centre closures, and that this has had a direct impact on increasing crime.
He accused Mr Jamieson of playing the party politics "blame game", but said police cuts were the fault of the previous Labour Government.
Mr Jamieson says Boris Johnson's pledge to increase police numbers will not restore levels to where they were in 2010.
Mr Singh-Sohal said: "It is shocking to see knife crime across our region and that we have had the biggest rise in England. It is an indication the PCC has not got to grips with this. We need a new, proper approach and that includes deploying police officers to the frontline and keeping police stations open to reassure residents.
"From knocking on doors residents are worried about rising crime. People are vulnerable and feel scared to go out there. They have had enough of excuses.
"The Government has made a firm commitment to putting a lot of resources into tackling knife crime and I believe we need the Commissioner to implement that.
"We need to speak with communities to get to the heart of the problem."
West Midlands Police has implemented a major police station closure programme over recent years but the Conservative candidate insists they are still relevant in 2020.
He said: "Police stations are very much needed in our communities to give that reassurance to the elderly, frail and vulnerable in particular."
And Mr Singh-Sohal defended the Conservatives in the face of criticism that their cuts have been partly responsible for surging crime rates.
"Labour have framed the argument in that way. The reason for a lot of the historical cuts is because of what Labour left us and how they left the economy when the Coalition Government came in," he said.
Mr Jamieson hit back at the Conservative candidate, saying: "The last thing the West Midlands needs is another Government apologist.
"Over the last 10 years West Midlands Police has been hit harder than any other force in the country. We have lost £175 million in government funding and anyone who hasn’t been campaigning to end the cuts, frankly shouldn’t be putting themselves forward to be PCC.
"As well helping to lead the national campaign against police cuts, I have driven huge efficiencies – that is why I was able to announce an increase in officer numbers last year and why I have invested in new technology to cut down on paper work to get officers out on to the streets instead of being stuck behind a desk.
"To reduce crime I made West Midlands Police the first force in England to introduce a public health approach to tackling violence – this approach is now backed by the government.
"The truth is though, however much we do locally, however many efficiencies we deliver and however innovative we are, we can’t make up for the huge cuts to policing and local youth services since 2010."