We visit the forgotten Birmingham city centre district that is plagued by crime

Dale End, Birmingham
Dale End, Birmingham

It's become an area of Birmingham city centre known for violent crime after a number of concerning incidents in recent years.

Dale End has been a hotspot for lawlessness and anti-social behaviour. A gun was fired outside a coffee shop earlier this year and shop managers still talk about two teenagers being stabbed in the street in 2018. And, unfortunately, there are many more chilling incidents.

According to the latest Police ADT crime figures, in the last 12 months, 268 violent crimes have been reported in the area in and surrounding Dale End. There have also been 54 incidents of anti-social behaviour reported and 98 public order offences reported.

Dale End, Birmingham city centre (Photo: BirminghamWorld)
Dale End, Birmingham city centre (Photo: BirminghamWorld)

On Wednesday (November 22), police issued a dispersal order in the area. The force said they received more reports of anti-social behaviour in Dale End which they say they believe are being committed by young people travelling into the city after school.

The area was once known for its McDonald's restaurant which became a hub for gang violence with reports of mass brawls and stabbings. But this Maccie D's has since been demolished, knocked down in 2022 amid the continuing development of town.

Yet, although the fast food chain was a source of crime in Dale End, there are some business owners in the area who regret its loss, saying it also helped to bring in customers to the area.

The demolition of the old Dale End McDonalds has made way for the Birmingham Eastside Metro extension, but the area still looks neglected. Some shops on the city centre street have also closed their doors in recent months, but a few businesses remain open in Dale End.

Mohammed Faisal and his brother, owners of Phone Giant Exchange
Mohammed Faisal and his brother, owners of Phone Giant Exchange

I headed down to the street on Monday afternoon (November 20) to speak with business owners about life in one of the city centre's crime hotspots.

The city centre was vibrant when I arrived on Monday, with the German Market once again bringing more business to the centre. But as I left the bustling High Street and turned into Dale End, you immediately notice that it's one of the more subdued shopping areas of central Birmingham. The area, which is located almost under The Square Shopping Centre, certainly looks run-down, and I suspected that the fact the street isn't so easy on the eye wasn't helping businesses in the area.

A little further up the road is the popular Forum music venue and the large HMV store, which replaced the old Ikea in 2019. But it's the range of independent businesses located on the left-hand-side of the street, opposite the High Street car park, that have experienced the anti-social behaviour and violence recently.

Liam, one of the managers of Ngopi UK coffee shop
Liam, one of the managers of Ngopi UK coffee shop

The Peaky Blinder pub, which was later renamed The Garrison, opened in Dale End almost a decade ago, but the venue was closed and was eerily empty on Monday. After a walk up and down the street, which is home to the likes of Ocean Fish Bar, DFC Chicken and Long Nails, I instantly notice the closed down shops including the old Street UK store which remains derelict.

I then popped into the phone shop Phone Giant Exchange, where the owners told me violence is still very much a problem in the area, and they expressed concern about a lack of police presence.

Shop owner Mohammed Faisal, who runs the store with his brother, told BirminghamWorld: "We've been here for five years, and the area used to get a big police presence, but there's not as much anymore. Before Covid there was a big police presence, but they will only come here now if a big incident happens."

Mohammed says the closure of the McDonald's has also had a detrimental impact on businesses in the area. "A lot of people said the McDonald's brought violence to the area, but it brought a lot of customers to us as well. Since that closed it's not been as good."

He says business has also struggled post-Covid. "We get a lot of footfall towards Christmas, Mohammed said. "But it has definitely gone down since Covid. People's priorities have changed with the cost of living going up. We were doing very good before, but Covid changed the nature of business."

I then went into the only cafe in Dale End, Ngopi Coffee. The manager of the Indonesian coffee house, which is a couple of doors down from Phone Giant Exchange, had a particularly frightening experience after violence spilled over into the shop back in July. A gun was fired outside of the cafe, before an off-duty policeman heroically began wrestling with the gunman inside the Ngopi.

The officer courageously ran out of the shop and tackled the gunman, managing to seize the firearm. CCTV footage even showed him restraining the man and keeping the gun out of reach on the coffee shop counter until armed officers arrived minutes later.

Liam, one of the cafe's managers, was working in the store at the time when there were no customers in the store. He told me: "There was a shot fired outside. At the time, I thought it was construction as it sounded like a metal machine dropping, and then there was an off-duty officer who came in. As the guy walked past he grabbed him and they ended up in here, fighting over the gun basically."

Despite the frightening ordeal, Liam says those in the area still feel safe thanks to the security outside of the cafe. "There's a few undesirables around, but we have security in the area," he said. "A few dodgy things have happened outside. There's also a lot of homeless people who use the car park on the other side of the road. But there's always security as well as security from the Square Shopping Centre. I don't think customers notice it too much. They come into town and this just happens to be the more dodgy side of town."

Scruffy Murphy’s rock bar is located on the corner of Dale End, a small distance from the shops on the side of the street. The Independent rock bar has been in business for 20 years and has welcomed the likes of Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Noddy Holder and Lemy of Motorhead as customers over the years.

The bar's manager Ollie Hunt said they are more than aware of the area's reputation, but the impact of the pandemic has been the biggest issue for the business. "It's not as good as it was before Covid but we're still here," he told me. "The weekends aren't quite what they were before Covid as everyone is a bit more conscious, but we will be doing live music again in February."

He says crime in the area is also not something that has affected them massively. He said: "We see it, but it was generally businesses a little further down the street that aren't there anymore where some of the problems have happened. This corner gets a bit of a bad reputation because it is technically Dale End, but all of the problems (crime) are never too near this corner."

Ollie said he has also noticed a decline in anti-social behaviour since McDonald's closed its doors. "It was a bit too far away for us to get any trade from it but it was a source of a lot of problems in this area."

There's no denying the area has been plagued by crime in recent years, but there are still a number of hard working businesses in Dale End doing their best to survive. The closure of the Dale End McDonald's does seem to have helped curb some of the violence in the area, but ant-social behaviour and crime remains a concern for shopkeepers. It's very much still one of the more noticeably run-down areas of the city centre, and more still needs to be done to tackle crime in the area.

What has West Midlands Police said about crime in Dale End?

After the force issued a dispersal notice in the district on Wednesday (November 22), Inspector Christian Harrison from Birmingham Police, said: “The dispersal order sends a clear message that Dale End is a no-go area for anyone wanting to cause issues in the city.

“A number of people were spoken to yesterday and we will be contacting parents and guardians to inform them of this behaviour and make it clear that it will not be tolerated in the city.

“Anyone who comes into the city centre with the intention of getting involved in trouble can expect to be swiftly dealt with by officers.

“Working with our partners, we are committed to addressing anti-social behaviour and we want people to feel safe when visiting the city.  As well as a dispersal order being in place, patrols around Dale End have been stepped up to offer reassurance to visitors and commuters.”