West Midlands Mayor Andy Street has called for a "zero tolerance" approach to crime.

He said cracking down on minor offences would "set the standard" for acceptable behaviour - and could help cut the number of serious offences, including violent crime.

Mr Street said: "Zero tolerance around less serious crime is absolutely right."

The number of violent crimes recorded by West Midlands police shot up by a fifth in the past 12 months , recent police figures show.

West Midlands Police recorded 61,124 violent crimes in a year. That's 167 violent crimes a day.

Mr Street highlighted comments by Dave Thompson, Chief Constable of West Midlands Police, who admitted last year that the force is “not pursuing crimes where we could find a suspect”.

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street
West Midlands Mayor Andy Street

The Mayor said: "I really do believe, particularly if you look at the age profile of a lot of the offenders in violent crime, that the idea of zero tolerance around less serious crime is absolutely right.

"We have a problem at the moment of less serious crime not going challenged.

"That is not any revelation. That is what the Chief Constable says.

"So certainly in the areas where I have some direct influence already, crime on transport, we have been very clear - that approach not be tolerated.

"And I think that sets the standard, particularly with young people, about what is acceptable."

 

A "zero tolerance" approach to crime was pioneered in New York in the 1990s, after researchers said allowing low-level crime such as vandalism to go unpunished could make areas more susceptible to serious crime.

Mr Street also said lack of opportunities contributed to crime rates, including young people who were excluded from school or left without any training or employment to go to.

"Those who are most susceptible to violent crime are sort of falling out of some of the other insitutons. They are not feeling a commitment to society."

Highlighting the number of young people not in education, employment or training - known as NEET - he said: "That whole piece around exclusions from schools. If you look at the number of 17-year-olds who are going into NEET positions, there is a huge correlation between that and violent crime."

Mr Street, a Conservative, said he welcomed last year's government announcement that funding for West Midlands Police will increase from from £444.1 million to £460 million, an increase of 3.5%.

David Jamieson, the Labour Police and Crime Commissioner, has argued that this does not come close to making up for previous funding cuts, and does not compensate for increased costs facing the police, such as extra pension costs and pay awards.

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson

West Midlands Police has also been told it can increase the precept added to council tax bills by £24-a-year, which would bring the precept for a Band D property up to £152.55 each year.

 

Mr Street said he had called in the past for the Government to increase funding for West Midlands Police.

He said: "I hope I have been consistent in saying West Midlands Police do need more resources."

Welcoming the Government's latest announcement, he said: "There is movement there, and it’s a question of how that money is used to make sure we do have that attitude around those offences."

West Midlands Police is currently overseen by an elected Police and Crime Commissioner, but it's proposed that this role be abolished in 2020 and its responsibilities taken over by the region's mayor.

A mayoral election will take place at the same time.

Mr Street backed plans to make the mayor responsible for policing, and pointed out that there was no guarantee he would be the person doing the job once the change came into effect.

 

He said: "I think it will be a step forward to make accountability crystal clear here, whoever is elected mayor."

Mr Street pointed out that mayors already oversaw police in London and Greater Manchester,

"It works very well in London and seems to work in Manchester, and it seems strange that we are in a different position."