REBUILDING and strengthening community policing across Solihull and the region is top priority says the new West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner.
Simon Foster believes continuing Street Watch groups similar to the Shirley one and setting up new youth groups can help in the fight against crime along side the 450 extra officers he promised over the next three years.
Mr Foster spoke with Observer Deputy Editor Sarah Mason about his plans to tackle crime and his plans for Solihull police station over the next three years.
“I do not see this as a desk job – I see it as an opportunity to connect with the community over policing matters,” says Mr Foster, “my aim is to be a people and communities PCC who engages and listens to the local community.”
Mr Foster was voted in to the role of PCC last month.
He has taken over from former Labour member David Jamieson who had been in the role since 2014 following his announcement to retire shortly before the 2020 PCC election was set to go ahead.
Since taking over the reins Mr Foster has been keen to get to know what the residents of the West Midlands need in terms of policing and he has been keen to see for himself what is going on.
On his first day in the job he put a call out wanting to hear about issues across the region people want addressed to include as part of his statutory police and crime plan.
One of the areas Mr Foster is keen to look at and work with is community policing through groups such as Street Watch and Neighbourhood Watch similar to those across Solihull.
He said: “These groups play an important role in prevention of crime, create community cohesion between the police and residents and build community morale and resilience.”
He is also keen to see more youth groups in the area – Mr Foster said the PCCs office has been investing in groups including one in Chelmsley Wood which play a vital role in crime prevention and play a vital role in addressing issues around knife crime.
Mr Foster said he is keen to work with the newly re-elected West Midlands Mayor, Andy Street, to set up more groups across the region.
He also said he wanted West Midlands Police to maintain a community presence in Solihull.
The bid to close the Homer Road station is still set to go ahead as part of wider plans to save £5million and protect officer jobs across the force.
Mr Foster said: “Solihull will retain a public contact police station.
“It will be one of ten centres in the West Midlands and the current station will not close until a suitable replacement has been found.”
He said any dates that were previously set to close police stations would likely to have been adapted due to the pandemic.
Mr Foster promised in his manifesto if he was elected he would employ 450 extra community officers across the force.
Mr Foster said the officers will be allocated to areas dependant on need and that will be a discussion between him and local teams when appropriate.
For more on the police and crime plan visit https://www.westmidlands-pcc.gov.uk and search police and crime plan.