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Thursday, 10 October, 2002, 05:26 GMT 06:26 UK
Shooting down the gangsters
Armed policeman
Armed police patrol the streets in Nottingham
A judge has said Nottingham is going the way of other big cities with gangs taking over the streets.

BBC News Online looks at how the city is coping with being caught in the sights.

Three men are told if they act like gangsters they will be treated like gangsters.

They are sentenced to a total of 33 years in jail - a sign that the courts are getting tough on the gang culture which has grown in Nottingham.

It follows deportations of Jamaican criminals, and armed police patrols on the streets of the Meadows and St Ann's.

But shootings are up.

Gun crime
West Midlands 2001-2002: 2,262 2000-2001: 1,512
Greater London 2001-2002: 3,446 2000-2001: 2,574
Greater Manchester 2001-2002: 1,569 2000-2001: 1,538

In the past six months, police have received reports of 26 people being shot.

There have been 17 shootings in the past three months.

Superintendent Alan Butler, who is in charge of tackling gun crime, says the actual number of shootings could be double that.

"All too frequently we see people attending our local hospitals with clearly gunshot injuries and discharging themselves after a very short period.

"The number of 26 is clearly a minimum number and who knows that could even be double, but that would be speculation," he says.

The judge tells the three "gangsters" he does not want Nottingham to go the way of London, Birmingham and Manchester.

'Wall of silence'

In these cities shootings between rival gangs have become part of the background of everyday life.

It is a culture which police say has been imported from Jamaica and in which young men, mostly black, are seduced into a world where carrying a gun gives you respect.

Posters have been put up by police in London
In London, Operation Trident, a 300-strong police unit set up to tackle the shootings, has run a series of adverts aimed at cutting gun crime - but figures show shootings are still going up.

In Birmingham, officers have met a virtual wall of silence on many occasions after shootings.

There they are offering rewards for information.

Celebrities such as Linford Christie have lent their support to a scheme which is trying to educate young black men to offer an alternative way of life.

Superintendent Butler says those involved in the gun culture have become reverse role models for young people who see gangs as an attractive way of life.

Terrorism lessons

Milton Crosdale, from Nottingham Racial Equality Commission, says: "I hope no young person really believes it is cool to carry a gun.

"It is such a dangerous thing to think about being cool with."

In Nottingham they have used the sectarian violence in Northern Ireland as a lesson for the city's young people.

People are fearful to go out after dark

Milton Crosdale
A group of teenagers was taken to Belfast to meet young Catholic and Protestant children.

Mr Crosdale says: "It was a positive experience and they saw how people got involved with religious wars and gun crime."

They are also looking at forging links between groups in the two areas of St Ann's and the Meadows across all age ranges.

There is an impetus to try and get the communities to take the lead.

'Poignant time'

But a meeting this week in St Ann's heard how there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people asking to be moved from their council homes.

Mr Crosdale says: "People are fearful to go out after dark.

"What we have is a small group of people who have managed to infiltrate these areas and making it bad for the people who live there.

"What we need to do is to take action to turn that tide to make the areas attractive to live in."

Superintendent Butler says the judge's comments are a poignant moment for the city.

"They are a lesson to all of us in the public sector whether that is the city council, the police, the communities of Nottingham.

"It is a stir to us to work together to make sure these incidents are greatly reduced and Nottingham remains much safer than perhaps the public may think at the moment."

Click here to go to Nottingham
See also:

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