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Last Updated: Friday, 18 June, 2004, 09:56 GMT 10:56 UK
Manchester's gang busters
By Cindi John
BBC News Online community affairs reporter

MMAGS poster
MMAGS tries to keep young people from getting in to the gang scene
As Manchester struggles to contain gun crime, with firearms offences a major concern and six shooting fatalities in 2003, BBC News Online looks at the progress of an anti-gang project in the city.

Not many people measure success in negative terms but that's exactly what Ralph Corrigan does.

He's in charge of an innovative programme in Manchester to turn youngsters away from gangs, guns and drugs.

"It's quite difficult to measure success because we're trying to measure things that haven't happened.

"In the areas where we're working shootings have gone down since we started and I'm sure in some part that is down to the work we've been doing."

'Target list'

Launched three years ago, the Manchester Multi-Agency Gangs Strategy (MMAGS) operates in south Manchester areas such as Moss Side, Hulme and Longsight, home to the city's most notorious gangs.

Before MMAGS started about 60% of shootings in Manchester were gang-related and people in some areas of the south of the city were 140 times more likely than other Manchester residents to be shot, according to a report commissioned by the Home Office.

The same report recommended a three-pronged approach to the problem, encompassing targeted crackdowns, enhancing community relations and providing diversionary services for those likely to end up in gangs.

MMAGS was the response - a project bringing together in one team professionals such as police and probation officers, social and youth workers and education officers.

The team has a 'target list' compiled from people who have become known to the various agencies.

"We get together, we share information that all the different agencies hold on that individual. We then look at what we can do to help them through," Mr Corrigan says.

'Reprisals'

The target list covers the whole spectrum from those youngsters not yet in gangs to hardened criminals, some of whom may have killed people.

Ralph Corrigan
Ralph Corrigan: "Gangs are a part of everyday life"

With the youngsters it's a case of diverting them from gangs using the services of social workers and education officers, Mr Corrigan adds, but the kid gloves come off when dealing with hardened gang members.

"Obviously we're not going to work with them to give them a nice house and some social care.

"They are enforcement targets, people we're trying to enforce on for the sake of the community. But we do try and work with them, obviously, once they're inside," he says.

The multi-pronged approach to tackling gang violence appears to be working.

Though firearms offences in Manchester remain high, gang-related shootings in have fallen a third in the three years since MMAGS came into operation.

The team have worked with around 200 'targets' and scored some notable successes in turning gang members' lives around. Some have gone on to higher education or employment away from Manchester.

But such is the fear of the former gang members of reprisals for leaving that MMAGS's achievements go largely unheralded, says Mr Corrigan.

"A lot of the time people's fear outweighs the reality but it is definitely the case that gangs are a part of everyday life in south Manchester.

"If you've grown up in the area you'll have seen them, you'll know who they are and you don't want to cross them."




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