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Last Updated: Friday, 15 September 2006, 13:19 GMT 14:19 UK
North West: Trying to banish 'Gunchester'
Tom Randall
The Politics Show North West

Jessie James
Could Jessie's death have been a gang attack?

Jessie James was shot a week ago in an apparently gang related attack.

He was 15 years old. Police say he may have been a victim of mistaken identity.

Whatever the circumstances surrounding the shooting it is true to say that his death will fuel the cycle of attack and retribution which characterises the Manchester gang scene and has done for decades.

In this week's Politics Show, we look at the policy and legislation which has had an effect on the gang related gun crime over the years and we ask where do we go from here?

The gang scene formed in the 1980s at a time of up to 90% youth unemployment in Manchester's Moss Side.

At first, guns were not prevalent. The weapon of choice was the machete.

Gun in hand
Manchester gangs have brought guns back onto the streets

The gangs grew with the drugs scene but unique to Manchester they also grew with clear geographical boundaries.

The gangs' names related to the streets in their patch; Gooch Close, Doddington and Pepperhill among others.


By the mid 1990s, Manchester had been dubbed "Gunchester" by the media.

At the height of the era, 27 people died and 250 people were injured over five years.

The authorities had to act.

The police started with Operation China - targeting known gang members and taking them out of circulation mainly for drugs offences.

But there was an inexhaustible supply of new recruits - getting younger and younger.

Even with an array of laws, policing is no easy task

In 1999 the Home Office commissioned a report into the shootings - the Tilley and Bullock report.

Out of that was born MMAGS - Manchester Multi Agency Gang Strategy.

For the first time all the interested parties came together on a regular basis to deal with known gang members and those on the periphery.

One of their many roles is to try get to the friends of victims and help them deal with their desire for revenge - an attempt to break the cycle and to stop one day's victim becoming the next day's perpetrator.

Next came a rash of legislation.

The Police Reform Act 2002 extended police powers to deal with the antisocial use of motor vehicles on public roads (or off-road) and enhanced the effectiveness of antisocial behaviour orders (Asbos)

The Antisocial Behaviour Act 2003 gave police additional powers to close premises being used for drugs. It introduced parenting contracts, parenting orders, the power of police to disperse groups and strengthened the law to fight graffiti and vandalism.

The Criminal Justice Act 2003 made fundamental changes to the criminal trial processes by making changes to rules of evidence, double jeopardy, juries and appeals. It also introduced new provisions to address drug-related offending.

Moss Side sign
Guns are again decaying society in Moss Side

The Fireworks Act 2003 changed the law so that it is now an offence for anyone under 18 to possess a firework in a public place and introduced a curfew on the use of fireworks between 11pm and 7am.

The Licensing Act 2003 introduced a new licensing regime that offered additional freedoms to licensing authorities but also created a new statutory responsibility to prevent crime and disorder and uphold public safety.

In 2004, the Police launched Operation Xcalibre tackling all gun crime in Greater Manchester.

Moss Side, today, is a very different place from that of the 1980s.

Unemployment is still higher than average but there has been investment in the area, the slums are gone and there is a waiting list for housing in the area.

But still young men and boys are getting killed.

Join Tony Wilson on the Politics Show on Sunday 17 September 2006 at 12:00 BST on BBC One.

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