No suspect identified: how majority of knife crime cases in Birmingham end

The number of knife crimes in Birmingham has almost doubled since 2014. The majority of cases ended up without suspect identified, Wan Ulfa investigates. 

A 19-year-old man was waiting for his taxi near Aston University just after midnight on 19 September 2017. Suddenly, another man came up to him and stabbed him with his knife. He was hospitalized. Luckily, he survived.

Two weeks later, the West Midlands Police released photographs of suspects. They still don’t have any solid information on his identity yet.

Two days before that attack, a 23-year-old man walking through Small Heath Park was brutally attacked by two men. One of them stabbed him in the arm and chest.

Earlier this month, a 19-year-old man was stabbed near the Greyhound Stadium at Perry Barr. This happened on a busy road and in broad daylight.

West Midlands Police said that it was a targeted attack. This young man too was lucky to survive.

“No further update. No arrests,” Craig Hughes, Operational Communications Officer, West Midlands Police said to Birmingham Eastside on Tuesday, 23 January 2018.

Even as we speak, these three unrelated cases have one thing in common. The perpetrator looms large, unidentified. This is the state of many cases of knife crime in Birmingham.

Data made public under the Freedom of Information Act say that between 2014 and 2017, there were 1,612 crimes involving the use of knives. The investigation of 83 percent of those cases has been closed and one of three cases have no suspect identified.

These cases are termed OC18. The description reads, Investigation Complete: No suspect identified. Investigated as far as
possible – Case closed pending further investigative opportunities. 

Only 23 percent of the total closed cases have suspects who have been charged or summoned.

Highest knife crimes since 2014

In 2014, 275 cases of knife crime were recorded, a 10 percent decrease from 2013. However, with each passing year, that number steadily increased, standing at 516 cases in 2017. This is almost double the number, making 2017 the worst year for knife crimes. Incidentally, 318 of those cases happened in West Birmingham.

“There has been an increase in knife crime, ranging from possession offenses at one end to murder at the other,” Superintendent Ian Parnell, West Midlands Police’s lead on knife crime said.

According to Parnell, most of these cases were not fatal.  “In the vast majority of knife crimes, no one is injured and it’s a case where a knife has been seen or threatened rather than used,” he said.

Compared to its neighbourhood, Birmingham infamously takes the top spot in number of knife crime cases reported. In 2017, there were 50 knife crimes in every 100,000 people.

Wolverhampton is the second worst, with 44 knife crimes per 100,000 people.

Last year, knife crimes in Birmingham happened every month. November was the worst one, with 57 cases recorded.


Cause for worry

The frequent reports of knife crime in Birmingham has instilled a sense of fear among international students, who worry for their safety.

Annabelle de Fatima Brenes Flores, a student from Nicaragua pursuing her Masters at Aston University read about the attack near her campus that happened just two days after she got to Birmingham.

“I was afraid of going out at night alone,” she told Birmingham Eastside.

Recently, she spotted a huge crowd near the Judicial courts on Corporation Street. Later that day, she saw police and ambulance services arriving to attend to an injured person, allegedly stabbed, on the news.

“I try not to go out alone at night. I always try to ensure I have company. If I must head out alone, I take an Uber,” she said.

Naeli Fitria, an Indonesian student studying at University of Birmingham shares her apprehension. A week after she arrived in Birmingham, she read about a knife crime case in the news that was reported near her house in Selly Oak. Ever since she has always taken an Uber when traveling alone at night and is generally quite cautious about stepping out late.

On social media, several citizens expressed their concern over the situation in the city.

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