An Old Bailey Solicitors analysis of gun crime in the UK

An Old Bailey Solicitors analysis of gun crime in the UK

In the 1960s and 70s gun crime was relatively rare, with weapons being used by small groups of hardened criminals. The rise of street gangs throughout the 1980s and 90s, linked to the explosion of cocaine and heroin available, turbo-charged the use of weapons. They were used to settle scores, retain or encroach on turf and as status symbols. The vast profits to be made from drug dealing made serious weapons affordable to young men and it levelled the playing field between the protagonists. What are the trends?

Manchester was once dubbed “Gunchester”, so bad had its gun crime become. In 2007/08, gun crime in Greater Manchester exceeded an average of more than three incidents a day. There were 146 shootings that year and 1,160 incidents in total. By 2014 this figure had dropped to 397 incidents of gun crime, a decrease of nearly two-thirds.

The improvement may involve a number of factors. It has certainly required police action (Operation XCalibre) which resulted in the jailing of key gang members in South Manchester but much effort has been put in by other agencies. The Manchester Multi-Agency Gang Strategy (MMAGS) has tackled the problem from all angles. Gang leaders have been targeted, support offered to families with young gang members, education, housing and commercial investment have all played their part.

In London, meanwhile, gun related incidents in 2014/15 reached 1,652 or 19.4 per 100,000 of the population, pushing Manchester into third place. In the same period, Birmingham (or more accurately the West Midlands) suffered 562 incidents which equated to 20 per 100,000 of the population. Again, the statistics are driven by gang activity with a turf war escalating between the Burger Bar Boys and Johnson Crew. Birmingham has yet to develop its equivalent of MMAGS and for the moment is relying upon police patrols, arresting ringleaders and gun amnesties. Civil injunctions to ban gang members from certain parts of the city have also been tried.

In London between 2011 and 2014, weapons were fired by criminals nearly 1500 times, leaving 29 dead and over 760 wounded to some degree. In the first half of 2016 there had been well over 100 shootings, prompting police officers to send out armed patrols in six boroughs.

Whilst gun violence affects people at all levels of society, damaging commercial interests and whole neighbourhoods, its impact is most keenly felt by those closely connected to it. The young men involved, and it is usually young men, and their families bear the brunt. Children that won’t return, a lifetime of medical care for others. It seems that as one gang fades another takes its place but the work of MMAGS may well have set the standard for all urban centres.

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