Communities left 'terrified' by rise in inner-city shootings

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The Independent Online

The recent growth in gun crime on the streets of Britain's inner-city areas is "terrifying", police have admitted, following a spate of shootings in London and Manchester on Thursday night, which left three teenagers injured.

In Manchester, detectives denied they were losing control of the Moss Side area after a 16-year-old girl was shot in the street in an attack which some have linked to the murder of Jesse James, 15, earlier this month. At the same time in London, community leaders said the shooting of two black teenagers in a McDonald's in Brixton had left people in a state of shock.

The shootings come in the wake of a series of violent incidents this week. In Nottingham, Nathan Williams, 17, was shot dead while cycling through the city in Tuesday, while four unconnected shootings in London over the past week have left four people seriously injured and one man, aged 22, dead. Despite the large numbers of teenagers involved in such incidents, the Home Office said it had no separate statistics on the ages of gun crime victims, although it is well established that young people, particularly males, are the highest risk category for all violent crime.

According to the British Crime Survey, around 15 per cent of young men aged between 16 and 24 have experienced some kind of violent crime.

The attack on the girl in Manchester came the evening before detectives launched a poster appeal for witnesses to the murder of Jesse James, on 9 September, in Moss Side. The girl, who has not been named, was said to have been shot as she fled from a gang of about 15 hooded youths on BMX bikes who were terrorising children playing in the street in the Whalley Range area, close to Moss Side. She was treated in hospital for a shoulder injury and released.

Eye-witnesses said a man with a gun had referred to the "Gooch" - the name of a local street gang which has been implicated in the James murder and is said to have been involved in a number of recent incidents.

One woman, Blossome Daley, 41, said she heard five shots and saw one of the men waving a silver shotgun. One of the attackers pushed a gun in her 22-year-old son's face as he opened the front door on hearing the shots. She said: "The man with the gun shouted at him 'Why are you running, you know it's riding time. Why are you running if you're not Gooch?' He was shouting that at everyone."

Speaking at the launch of the poster campaign yesterday morning, police said there was "no obvious link" between the two incidents, but it had not been ruled out and inquiries were still under way. Police are particularly keen to speak to three teenage girls who they believe were witnesses to the Jesse James killing.

Chief Superintendent David Thompson, who is in charge of the Moss Side and Whalley Range areas, added: "No, we're not losing control. But we don't underestimate the seriousness of this problem. The volume of gun crime has risen worryingly since August. But to the people who think we're not doing enough I would say I completely understand how concerned they are. It is terrifying."

He added: "The problem we face is that there are a small number of people who have a determined desire to engage in gun conflict. We're continuing to target them but we need continued support from the community to tell us what's going on and where these guns are. There's no excuse for being scared."

The two teenagers shot in the McDonald's incident in London were said to be in a "stable condition" in hospital last night. One was shot in the stomach and the other in the arm. Neither has been identified. The incident took place while the restaurant, in the centre of Brixton, was full of families and schoolchildren. Eye-witnesses said the gunman, who was 6ft and black, shot one of the teenagers first at close range and then fired at his friend when he went to help him.

The incident is being investigated by Operation Trident, the Scotland Yard group which handles black-on-black crime, although police said there was no evidence that it was gang-related. Lee Jasper, chairman of Trident Advisory Group, said the black community of London was in a "state of shock" and that the gunman was a "deranged and dangerous criminal".

He added: "It was an extremely frightening, violent incident taking place in one of our main shopping areas. Luckily, with the work of Trident and professional expertise, we've got officers who are very well versed in investigating and prosecuting people involved with gun crime.

"Somebody out there knows what happened in McDonald's. I am appealing to all those people to bring themselves forward to provide the police with information."

A week of gun crime

* Saturday: Man shot in car in Kingsbury, north-west London; gunman fired two shots from adjacent vehicle.

* Sunday: Daniel Ross, 22, shot dead on dancefloor of nightclub in King's Cross, London. Three people held.

* Monday: Two men of Vietnamese origin seriously injured in shooting at nightclub in Brixton, south London.

* Tuesday: Nathan Williams, 17, (right) shot dead while cycling through Nottingham shopping area in suspected revenge attack.

Man, in his twenties, shot several times in street in Finsbury Park, north London.

* Thursday: Two teenagers wounded, one seriously, in shooting at McDonald's restaurant in Brixton.

Girl, 16, shot by youth in Whalley Range, Greater Manchester; links to murder of Jesse James being investigated.