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Gun crime in Liverpool: Why? What? Where?
Liverpool’s long history with gun crime is back in the headlines thanks to an upturn in incidents, including three murders. The return of the infamous “Triggerpool” nickname (coined in 2005-6, when Merseyside as a whole recorded 124 shootings) shows that the public perception is that Liverpool is returning to its darkest and most violent days.
The UK’s independent crime fighting charity – Crimestoppers – recently confirmed that gun-related incidents are on the rise in Liverpool, and 2016/17 is shaping up to be a terrible year for the city in terms of shootings.
Since January 2016, there has been more than 75 shootings in Liverpool, leading to the deaths of three men. In February 2017, 26-year-old Aaron Lewis and 44-year-old Thomas Baker were shot dead in Liverpool within six days of each other.
There has also been damage to cars, windows and front doors and a catalogue of people injured by guns including a baby in Netherley and a toddler in Speke. One Liverpool gun crime victim was left partially blinded after being shot in the head and another came close to losing limbs after being shot in the legs during a home invasion. The police believe that children as young as 10 are being recruited as gun smugglers for gangs engaged in turf wars and violent rivalry.
The recorded gun crimes in the last year have been largely focused around Liverpool, but also in South Sefton and Knowsley. The worst concentration includes Kirkdale, Speke and Netherton.
Have the lessons from Rhy Jones’ murder been forgotten?
What makes the upturn in gun crime in Liverpool so noteworthy is that the city appeared to have exerted a degree of control over the issue in recent years. Many people believe this was largely due to the national – and international – revulsion when 11-year-old Rhys Jones was caught in gang crossfire in the car park of the Fir Tree pub in Croxteth. The child was brutally shot in the neck and died shortly after in his mother’s arms.
For a while, the community of Liverpool seemed united in its determination to stamp out gun related incidents. Is the recent upturn a sign that local memories are short?
A major factor in recent gun crime in Liverpool is that some of the city’s most substantial criminal fraternities have been eradicated, leading to smaller gangs battling in fragmented “turf wars” and tit-for-tat crime sprees.
The origins of this date back to the mid-19th century, when gangs and sectarian groups settled their scores in Liverpool at the end of a gun barrel. In the 1980s, the city saw a substantial upturn in gang crime thanks to a thriving drug economy, particularly heroin. It earned Liverpool the media tag “Smack City”. Organised crime gangs in this era included the Liverpool Mafia, the first cartel of its kind to emerge in the UK.
By the 1990s, gangsters and their turf wars had put Liverpool at the top of the UK league table for gun crime. In 1996, when gangster David Ungi was shot, a further six shootings occurred over a seven day period. This shocking record led to Merseyside Police becoming one of the first forces in the country to openly carry weapons.
Clearly the ebb and flow of Liverpool’s gangs is a central theme.
Another key factor in the upturn in Liverpool’s gun crime is that guns are now more readily available than ever before. The main smuggling route is from eastern European countries such as Albania and Lithuania. Police forces throughout the UK report that they have made significant seizures recently of guns coming in from France.
According to Police and Crime Commissioner Jane Kennedy, Merseyside Police and the local authority desperately need an injection of government funding to tackle gang “warfare” and root out gun-toting criminals.
The police force and the crime prevention charity Crimestoppers have vowed to increase their efforts to stamp out gun crime. However, they have also announced that the local community is a key component in regaining control over the city streets.
Just after the tragic lose of Rhys Jones Liverpool’s community spirit focused on eradicating the blight of gun crime in the area. Since then, some would argue that Liverpudlians have returned to the days when they are unwilling – or too scared – to co-operate with the police and local authorities. People have put up a wall of silence again, closing ranks and allowing gun related problems to fester.
Local agencies have launched a campaign, urging residents to speak up and make Liverpool a safer city. They can do this anonymously, using the Crimestopper number.
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