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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 March 2007, 14:03 GMT 15:03 UK
Gun gang: Tale of two Manchesters
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More than 3,000 miles separate Manchester, New Hampshire, USA and Manchester, in North West England.

Yet both face the challenges of keeping inner city teenagers out of gun gangs.

In Manchester, USA, juvenile crime has dropped by nearly 40% in the city's most deprived neighbourhood - the Zone.

Across the Atlantic the situation is less positive in Manchester's Wythenshawe and Moss Side districts, where the guns and gangs culture attracts young people.

BBC Radio 4's File On 4 has investigated if Britain can learn anything from this tale of two Manchesters.

Manchester, New Hampshire

Police organised boxing club in Manchester, New Hampshire
Officer O'Keefe says the boxing club is a foundation for life

When police officer Brian O'Keefe gets on the case of teenagers from Manchester's Zone, the most deprived area of the city, the chances are he is chasing up their school homework.

Officer O'Keefe works full time running a boxing club in the neighbourhood but in partnership with other local agencies, he takes a hands-on interest in all aspects of the youngsters' lives.

"They know I'm looking after their interests not just for the three hours they are here," he said.

"This is more than a boxing gym - it's a foundation for life."

The gym is one of several projects given sustained funding as part of the city's coordinated approach where public authorities, community groups and voluntary organisations work together to fight youth crime.

The city has benefited from the financial clout of the Federal Department of Justice's Weed and Seed initiative.

US President George Bush says gun crime is the second priority after terrorism.

This is more than a boxing gym - it's a foundation for life
Officer Brian O'Keefe

Weed and Seed has seen the city receive special federal funds which aim to control violent crime, drug abuse and gang culture in poor areas, weeding out the bad and sowing seeds of prevention and regeneration.

Anna Thomas of the city's health department said this means working closely with a neighbourhood's residents, implementing their priorities for the area.

Ms Thomas said the overall strategy had seen serious juvenile crime fall by 39% between 2002 and 2006.

Kathy Michael, a member of one of the 41 neighbourhood watch groups in the city, cites a simple example of residents and the authorities working together where she spotted poor street lighting which needed fixing.

"I told the right person in the police department and the lights were put up very quickly - if you don't have good lighting you will have problems."

Manchester, UK

Jessie James
Campaigners say Jessie James's murder was a catalyst to improve Moss Side

Those trying to prevent Manchester's teenagers getting caught up in the guns and gang culture have a frustrating time compared to their US counterparts.

Erinma Bell, chair of Carisma, a community organisation formed to stop gun crime, said Moss Side - which has a problem with teenage gangs and guns - had a neglected physical environment which provided a haven for crime with poor street lighting, overgrown trees and no CCTV.

It was only when people were galvanised by the murder of teenager Jessie James in September 2006 that action was finally taken

Even the police have been held up by bureaucratic inertia.

Nearly three years ago Greater Manchester Police identified CCTV as part of a new prevention and enforcement strategy to halt gun crime.

The cameras the police wanted have only recently been installed after problems pulling funding sources from different public bodies.

"This is something which should have been in place a long time ago but I think it's often about how prioritisation is set across different organisations and the ability to switch funding into things that we believe will work," said Dave Jones, Assistant Chief Constable of the GMP.

Grass-roots community projects which could help keep teens out of the gun gangs have an even harder task to secure funding.

Connected funding is funding that should be used to direct people away from gun crime
Erinma Bell, Carisma

Carisma wanted to run a leadership training project for young people who want to make a difference in the community and applied to the Home Office's Connected Fund which aims to help fund local projects tackling gun and knife crime.

Ms Bell said the project fulfilled most of the fund's criteria but this year the Home Office said any qualifying project had to have an element marking the anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade.

She said this provided another hurdle for the voluntary group to overcome, because Carisma's project had no connection with slavery.

"I can tell the young people - but they'll think 'What has that got to do with us being community leaders?'" she said.

A statement from Manchester City Council rejected claims there had been delays in installing CCTV in Moss Side.

The council claimed gang and gun offences are dropping in the area but added, "Our resolve has only been heightened by recent tragedies such as the murder of Jessie James.

Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Ruth Kelly was said to be too busy for an interview.

Hear the full story on Radio 4: File on 4 Tuesday, 27 March, 2007 at 2000 BST, repeated Sunday 1 April 2007 at 1700 BST.

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SEE ALSO
Reward to catch teenager's killer
11 Mar 07 |  Manchester
Gun gang members 'die by age 24'
19 Jul 04 |  Manchester
Should UK police carry guns?
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How can gun crime be tackled?
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Increase in gun crime in the East
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Firearm crime continues to rise
16 Oct 03 |  London
America and handguns: No to a ban
29 May 98 |  In Depth

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