Selly Oak residents expose the reality of living in Birmingham’s burglary hotbed

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There have been 491 burglaries in Selly Oak since June last year

Laptops, phones, iPads, cars and consoles – just a few prized possessions to go missing recently in Selly Oak, the burglary capital of Birmingham. The student area has been a magnet for thieves and robbers over the years, consistently topping police records for the area in the city with the most break-ins.

A recent Freedom of Information request revealed there have been 491 burglaries in Selly Oak since June last year, over 100 more than any other part of the city during that time period. Over 700 were recorded in 2020, with burglars particularly active during the first term of every academic year.

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Terraced houses with multiple occupations line the residential streets of Selly Oak and are crammed full of students. The Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) went to find out more about the reality of living in an area so synonymous with break-ins, and heard some harrowing accounts from locals.

Selly Oak train stationSelly Oak train station
Selly Oak train station | LDR

Lexi from Manchester

One student named Lexi who lives in Selly Oak said she was burgled twice last year, once while she was in the house. Of the first break-in, she said: “All my housemates went out and the police think the robbers watched them leave so they thought the house was empty, but I was still in.

“I heard some noise in the house but I assumed my housemates had come in to get something. He came up the stairs towards my room and I saw him so I just slammed the door, locked it, called the police and told them, ‘he’s in the house right now’, and then he just ran.

“Everyone’s door was locked apart from one so he just went into this girl’s room, but she didn’t have any valuables. I think they just stole a pair of shoes but that was it.”

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Coming face-to-face with a burglar once is bad enough. But Lexi said not long after, a second burglary took place at her Selly Oak house while she was back in Manchester.

Lexi from Manchester. For a piece about Selly Oak burglaries. Source: Tom Cramp. Approved use for all partnersLexi from Manchester. For a piece about Selly Oak burglaries. Source: Tom Cramp. Approved use for all partners
Lexi from Manchester. For a piece about Selly Oak burglaries. Source: Tom Cramp. Approved use for all partners | LDR

She said: “Basically everyone had gone out so the police thought the burglars had watched them leave again, but they came home and someone was standing outside the house. They asked what was going on and he replied, ‘oh I’m just looking for 143’, which isn’t our house number. Then he made a phone call and everyone just left.”

“But that time even though all the doors were locked, they had busted down all the inside doors. They took like three or four laptops, a car, two more sets of car keys but they didn’t get the other cars, a few iPads, and a Kindle. They had just completely ransacked all the rooms.”

Luckily, Lexi and her housemates had personal insurance and got some of the items back. But she said the police didn’t offer much in the way of information after the second burglary.

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“Our door was broken in with a brick”, Lexi continued, “and they said they were going to do forensics, but they never came because they said they were short of staff.

“We then got a text a week later saying the case was closed and we just never heard anything else about it. We were told by a friend that a big group of burglars in the area had been arrested, but then that friend got burgled a few weeks after.”

Daniel from Leicester. For a piece about Selly Oak burglariesDaniel from Leicester. For a piece about Selly Oak burglaries
Daniel from Leicester. For a piece about Selly Oak burglaries | LDR

Daniel from Leicester

Another person to fall fowl of burglars in Selly Oak is Daniel, a University of Birmingham (UoB) student from Leicester. Robbers had to smash a glass door to get in and came away with some of Daniel and his housemates’ most valuable possessions.

“It was at the end of July last year, he said. “They stole our PS4, our TV, my friend’s Xbox, a speaker, and a few other bits like that. They had smashed the back door which had a glass window on it, so they smashed that and then used the handle to get in.”

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“They broke the door to my room and kicked it down and trashed it basically. Our landlord dealt with the police side of things but we didn’t really hear much, to be honest. Everything got repaired in the house. But they burgled next door at the same time.”

The Freedom of Information request submitted by the LDRS also revealed that out of the 3,107 burglaries in Birmingham’s top ten burglary hotspots between June 2021 and June 2022, just 85 of these led to a charge or court summons. This is less than 3 per cent of total cases.

Local at the Goose pub on Selly Oak high street

One local at the Goose pub, who wished to remain nameless, said he was well aware of the problem and had lived in the area for many years. He said that although his house had never been robbed, he did have some personal experience of items being stolen.

The man said that some years ago, his neighbour had stolen a stereo from his car right outside his house. He knew who it was as the man was a known thief in the area, so he told the LDRS he went to confront him with a baseball bat.

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The thief then apparently started crying as he was approached, and could only say: “I thought it was a student’s car.”

The man from the Goose continued: “It’s the students – they’ve got no sense sometimes. Leaving expensive equipment out and not locking doors.”

“They’re not stupid. They just need more common sense and life experience.”

Fab N Fresh

Some people on the streets on Selly Oak directed the LDRS to a Facebook group called Fab N Fresh, a space for UoB students living locally to discuss community issues. The page is littered with accounts of burglaries that have plagued residents in recent weeks.

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Maddie Denning writes on July 22: “My house on Hubert got robbed yesterday. We think they watched my roommate leave and thought the house was empty. I was in but had popped upstairs briefly to grab something.

“They hopped the fence and got in through the back door. By the time I got back downstairs they had taken my MacBook Pro and my purse. Drained £185 from my accounts at Wine Stop, Best One and Selly Oak Convenience.

Phil Wistow then writes on the same day: “Just a heads up for people in Selly over summer, my catalytic converter was robbed off my car on Monday night c10:30 by 4 lads in balaclavas.

“Then last night our gaff (Bournbrook) was burgled while we were in it. They managed to get in through a first-floor window and took laptops, TVs etc, so just be wary of windows open overnight. My passport was taken & I have no wallet/ID either, so if anyone sees a black Carhartt bag ditched about could they lmk.”

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September is fast approaching which means the start of a new academic term. This period will inevitably see brazen burglars trying their luck on more homes in the area. Students can find out more information about how to protect their homes via the Love Selly Oak community page. It has advice on how to stay vigilant against robbers and how to make sure your expensive stuff doesn’t go missing.

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