Birmingham & Black Country

Police reassurance over Wolverhampton shootings

Armed police patrols have been out on the streets of Wolverhampton during the last month following a series of high-profile murders and shootings.

Image caption Raheem Hines-Thomas was killed in March

A former police officer and director for the Centre for Conflict Management in the West Midlands, Kirk Dawes, believed gang-related crime and drugs have been displaced from Birmingham to Wolverhampton.

But police said violence has fallen in Wolverhampton over the past three years.

BBC News went to the Park Village estate to film a police search as they tried to locate a shotgun which was fired in a nearby house last month, killing 17-year-old student, Raheem Hines-Thomas.

Flowers and tributes were placed outside a house in Orslow Walk.

But scores of young people turned their backs to the camera and I was told politely I was not wanted there.

Another shooting

It is their turf and their friend who has died.

Police have said Raheem was not a gang member.

It was alleged the gun went off accidentally, what is called a negligent discharge in the Army, careless or ignorant handling of a firearm causing the gun to be fired by mistake.

Another shooting took place last week in Low Hill with shots being fired at a house, but nobody was injured.

Image caption Supt Mark Payne said Wolverhampton was not the capital for serious crime in the Midlands

One senior police officer said it was boys with toys, but these toys kill.

Supt Mark Payne, in charge of Wolverhampton, said the city was certainly not the capital for serious crime in the Midlands.

He said police have successfully stopped many street gangs, taking out the leadership and jailing them.

Supt Payne said: "The community do talk to us and we are happy that this is not the re-emergence of gang tension in Wolverhampton."

Benji Williams, a former drug dealer, started selling cannabis on the streets at 12.

His arms were covered with scars from knife attacks and he showed me where he was shot, with the bullet lodging in his hip.

'Green-eyed monster'

Mr Williams is a reformed man now, but remembered the fear on the streets.

He said: "You've got to be careful of other drug dealers who might want to come and take your purse, take the money what you've made because you're on their patch or it's the case of jealousy and the green-eyed monster rearing its head."

Mr Williams is now a youth worker, having had his life transformed with the help of the Prince's Trust, and an example of how lives can change and how young men can turn their backs on crime.

Image caption Former drug dealer Benji Williams is now a youth worker

Derrick Campbell, a pastor and director for Race Equality Sandwell, advises Home Secretary Theresa May on gun crime.

He said his city was far from being a crime haven but was worried the good work done in the past 10 years to divert young people from gun and gang culture was at risk with sweeping cuts across the region.

"If we don't continue to maintain a level of priority, a lot of these young people will simply drift back into criminality and we will see a rise in disturbances that we have seen over the last couple of years."

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