Over the past two weeks we have seen the tragic loss of young lives in our region. It is clear the recent rise in violent crime is now a national emergency.
We are facing a knife crime epidemic and Solihull is not immune.
The loss of more than 2000 police officers, following huge government cuts, reductions in youth services across the region and rising levels of deprivation are all contributing to this spike in violent crime.
But there is one issue, in particular, that I have drawn the Prime Minister’s attention to; the issue of school exclusions.
Department of Education figures show how permanent school exclusions in England have increased by 56% between 2013-14 and 2016-17. During the same time, the West Midlands saw a 62% rise in exclusions up from 440 to 727.
As a former teacher and currently a Solihull school governor, I know that when behaviour has deteriorated to such an extent then exclusions can be a necessary measure for a head teacher. Schools must remain a safe place to teach and learn.
The problem is that once children have been excluded they become very vulnerable and are at risk of being groomed by organised crime gangs. Once affiliated with a gang they are often used to sell drugs and forced to commit violent crimes. They often also become victims themselves.
But too often, thanks to a decade of budget cuts, schools are unable to provide the support needed, at an early stage, to ensure challenging pupils succeed at school. Instead, their behaviour gets worse and schools feel they are left with no choice, but to permanently exclude.
Perhaps most worrying, some schools are even excluding pupils before they sit their GCSE’s in order to protect their league table position. This underhand practice is known as ‘off-rolling’ and is completely unacceptable. Those schools found guilty should face a substantial financial penalty.
We cannot simply arrest our way out of the current knife crime epidemic. We need government support. That means extra money for police forces, schools and youth services.
The cost of investigating serious crimes is substantial. It runs into tens of millions of pounds. Under investment in public services is a false economy. We must reverse the current trend if we are truly committed to tackling violent crime and keeping the youngest generation safe.
Police and Crime Commissioner, David Jamieson