Rise in South Asian drug crime in West Midlands

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Credit: Barnie Choudhury

By Barnie Choudhury

West Midlands Police have arrested more South Asians than any other minority group in the past three years when it comes to drug crime.

Freedom of information figures obtained for Birmingham Eastside show that in the past three years they arrested 5,264 South Asians for drug offences, compared to 5,077 black and 8,627 white suspects.

South Asians make up 12 per cent of the area the force covers.

During that time, 26 per cent of those arrested were South Asian, double the proportion living in the West Midlands Police area.

Police failure

The Birmingham Perry Barr MP, Khalid Mahmood, said the police were failing to interrogate the data properly.

“This isn’t rocket science, this is straight forward,” he said. “They know the violence that is created, especially by shootings, knife crimes and beatings of people.

“They know what the issues are and to interrogate the figures is an obvious thing to do.

“The rise in crime has been horrendous, especially in the South Asian communities, and they’ve got to deal with it.

“They need to act on the intelligence. All they have to do is look at the gangs, look at the drugs they’re looking at, and look at the issue around county lines.”

South Asian arrest increase

The percentage rise in arrests year-on-year during 2018 and 2019, was highest among South Asians compared to white or black suspects.

Stop and search

Analysis of stop and search figures for 2019 and 2020 shows that police stopped more South Asians than any other minority group.

In 2019, they stopped 135 more South Asians than white suspects.

In a 24-month period, officers searched twice as many South Asians as black people.

During that time, they stopped 357 more white suspects than South Asians.

But some South Asians are concerned by the numbers stopped where the police take no further action.

In 2019, this happened to three in four stopped and searched, and the following year that figures climbed to 78 per cent.

Generation of criminals

The analysis has concerned a former drug dealer.

Abdul Qadir, not his real name, said the police were criminalising a generation.

“The cops stereotype the kids. The schools stereotype the kids. If they’ve been suspended from school, get into gangs, get caught once, then they’re labelled for life. These Asian kids don’t get second chances. They’re on the police radar, and if anything goes wrong, they go for the usual suspects. It starts at school.

“Every day I go to schools which detention rooms, and I say to the kids, ‘Aren’t you challenging why you’re here?’ And they say, ‘No, I’m used to it now.’ The cops, the teachers, the system, they’re criminalising a generation.”

The Birmingham Perry Barr MP, Khalid Mahmood, agreed that suspension from school did lead to gang crime.

“The key attention at the moment is in education,” said the shadow defence minister. “If you look at educational attainment rates, particularly amongst Asian boys, they are significantly lower than most of the other communities.

“The big problem in schools is exclusions. School exclusions are becoming higher and higher. And in private academies, you have the risk of that it rises because they don’t want them there. There’s no real provision for those children to get a reasonable and proper education.”

Government figures show that Birmingham topped the list of South Asians for fixed term school exclusions in England in 2018–19.

Effect of pandemic

In the first quarter of 2020, the number of arrests of Asian people was 450 or an average of 150 per month. But West Midlands Police arrested 961 Asians for the remaining three quarters, an average of 107 per month.

In total, the officers arrested 1,675 in the first three months of 2020 and 3,365 for the remainder of the year.

That suggests the lockdown affected the force’s ability to tackle drug crime.

The lead for the county line gangs for West Midlands Police, Superintendent Rich Agar said,

“County lines is an issue that affects all communities and people from different backgrounds.

“We don’t target particular parts of our community for our drug enforcement or safeguarding activity: we take action where the intelligence directs us to target drug offenders and protect vulnerable people.

“The pandemic has not paused our pursuit of county lines offenders. Last week we ran a campaign that resulted in 74 arrests of people we believe are liked to drugs supply.”

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