Walsall’s Front Line Vol One

A year of crime-fighting

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In 1997, West Midlands Police was facing huge challenges with rising crime and anti-social behaviour blighting the lives of thousands of people within communities who became victims of criminality.

As a national debate raged about the need to take a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to crime, others argued for a problem solving approach and the preservation of the principles of policing by consent.

Radical measures were called for, and in the spring of 1997, West Midlands Police was restructured into twenty-one ‘Operational Command Units’ with the specific aim of delivering local policing to local people.

One of those command units became known as ‘H2’ and covered half of the Borough of Walsall situated in the ‘Black Country’.

The areas of Darlaston, Willenhall, Bloxwich, and Brownhills, steeped in industrial history, also faced high levels of social deprivation, exacerbated by the scourge of heroin which took control of a number of people’s lives, turning some of them into lifestyle criminals.

To face the challenges of drugs, arson attacks, violence, and anti-social behaviour, just two hundred and sixty-four regular police officers formed the ‘thin blue line’ to preserve the peace, in a community of 142,273 people.

This book is the story of how those police officers, supported by a small band of civilian support staff and special constables, set about trying to improve the lives of the vast majority of law-abiding people that lived and worked on the OCU, and tackled the hardened criminals and hooligans head on.

Told through the eyes of two of the senior police officers responsible for bringing about drastic change and improved performance during the first twelve months of reorganisation, ‘Walsall’s Front Line’ provides a unique insight into the inner workings of the police.

At the heart of policing is the issue of community safety, and this story measures the success of the few in trying to help the many, whilst dealing with deaths, domestic violence, disputes and disorder on a daily basis.

The book also contains seventy photographs, many of which are previously unseen.

Above all this book is about hope, and a philosophy that with the right support and direction small numbers of dedicated professionals can achieve great things.