Local community and police leaders were brought together by Batley & Spen MP Jo Cox to discuss recent robberies in Batley and Dewsbury. Dewsbury MP Paula Sherriff was also present.
The meeting was headed by Mark Burns-Williamson, the Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire.
One of the victims was present to recount his experiences, described by Mrs Cox as “harrowing”. He supported the local police view that although the crimes were not racially motivated, Asian households had been disproportionately affected and that there was a specific pattern.
Mrs Cox said: “I was more than happy to arrange this meeting and I would like to thank Mark and members of our local police for accepting my invitation. We have put together an action plan so that our communities are safer and more resilient in future and, importantly, remain calm.
“These are some of the most serious types of crime there can be, invading people’s homes, where they have an absolute right to feel safe. The harrowing account we heard from one of the victims demonstrates why these incidents have caused so much alarm locally. The police have done an excellent job in investigating these robberies and the progress and arrests they’ve made are very encouraging.”
Miss Sherriff said: “I felt it was important that we arrange this meeting given the level of unrest in my constituency following these horrendous crimes. Jo and I are committed to keeping up our campaigns to protect policing and get more support to community policing. The details of some of these incidents are truly dreadful and I hope these arrests are a reprieve to the very real fears that have arisen in our communities.
“I will continue these conversations with Mark Burns-Williamson and other members of our local police to ensure that issues are dealt with swiftly and that residents continue to feel safe in their homes and in the community”
Community leaders were invited to attend by Batley’s Indian Muslim Welfare Association (IMWS), which hosted the meeting.
Police inspectors from both Batley and Dewsbury were also present, joined by Superintendent Paul Jeffrey.
Mr Jeffrey described how the seriousness with which West Yorkshire Police had viewed the robbery offence in Batley had led to a manhunt that involved mobilising both local officers and additional specialist resources from across the Force in order to secure the arrest of an outstanding suspect who was apprehended on Wednesday.
Investigations continue concerning a total of eight men who have been arrested over recent weeks in connection with these robberies.
However, there was also a note of caution for local residents from the police, who were critical of the response of some residents, especially on social media. WhatsApp and Facebook in particular had been used by a small minority of people to spread false information and encourage and organise vigilante actions. This was roundly condemned as unhelpful.
Mr Jeffrey said: “We absolutely rely on working closely with local residents not only in crime prevention but also in developing leads and apprehending suspects. However I must stress that this needs to be done through official channels. In the first instance by ringing 101.
“If our officers are working to apprehend vigilante groups and combat misinformation, this is an unhelpful diversion of our resources.”
Mr Burns-Williamson added: “These are some of the most serious types of crime that are committed in West Yorkshire. Our force is steadfast in the determination that despite budget pressures, we will never be too stretched to deal with this kind of criminality.
“But that does not mean that other areas of our service are not feeling the pain. The fact is that we now have under 8,000 employees compared to 10,000 in 2010. This does have an impact.
“I was pleased to be invited this evening to hear the victim’s story and get feedback from the communities affected. Incidents like these just strengthen my belief in the importance of protecting neighbourhood policing. When we sit down to set a budget for West Yorkshire Police, this will be at the forefront of all our minds.”