A new report has found that West Midlands Police is leading the way in the fight against forced marriages, honour based violence and female genital mutilation.

Police watchdog, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), found that the force was one of only three across the entire country which were ‘prepared’ in all areas of protecting people from harm from these “often hidden and under reported crimes”.

Leadership, offender management and victim care were just some of the areas scrutinised by the independent body which spoke to survivors, questioned staff and analysed policies.

The in-depth report also identified the region as having the highest number of cases outside London − no surprise given the size and diverse make-up of the local population.

Superintendent Angie Whitaker, from West Midlands Police, is the lead for preventing and investigating these crimes. She said: “Despite the abhorrent nature of the crimes examined by the HMIC, their independent report should make for welcome reading for local people. The paper makes clear that we take reports seriously and investigate thoroughly.

“While we are pleased that our hard work alongside community groups and support agencies has been recognised, there is much more for us to do.

“We are not complacent and acknowledge that forced marriages, honour based violence and female genital mutilation are often hidden and under reported crimes.

“From speaking to survivors − and perpetrators − we know that victims tend to be highly vulnerable and despite wanting an end to their suffering, they often don’t want family members criminalised. That is why the police are often the last port of call.”

As well as high levels of staff awareness and victim care, West Midlands Police’s publicity campaign was also highlighted as an area of strength.

Developed in conjunction with community groups, Sentinel is the force’s a long running campaign to lift the lid on taboo crimes such as those scrutinised by inspectors.

Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner, Yvonne Mosquito said: “The way to tackle hidden crimes is to bring them out into the open and that is what West Midlands Police is doing.

“In June 2015 we launched the Violence Prevention Alliance, this alliance brings together partners to work with a shared understanding that violence and its associated harms are preventable.

“We aren’t complacent and will continue to work hard to protect people from these crimes.” 

Training for medics, posters, and survivor stories have all been used by the force to serve as a warning to offenders as well as encourage more people to seek help.

Also highlighted for particular praise was West Midlands Police’s innovative approach to tackling FGM in association with Public Health England.

The scheme sees an officer working alongside health officials to improve joint working.

For more information on Sentinel including how to seek help, visit:  http://www.west-midlands.police.uk/

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