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EDITIONS
 Saturday, 4 January, 2003, 12:23 GMT
Shooting enforces Midlands fear factor
Shops in Birchfield Road
The area is described as 'run-down'
The Birmingham shooting, which left two teenage girls dead and two others injured, shocked the local community.

A university worker, who gave his name as John, told BBC News Online there were fears that crime in the area was following the trends of other major cities.

They carry guns as male jewellery - to be 'gangstas' and eventually they will use them

John
He said it seemed Birmingham was becoming the "Gunchester" of the Midlands.

The four girls were hit by a stream of bullets as they left a party at the Uniseven Studios hairdressing salon in Birchfield Road, Aston, on Thursday.

Charlene Ellis, 18, and Latisha Shakespeare, 17 died, while Charlene's twin sister, Sophie, and 17-year-old Cheryl Shaw were injured

The salon is part of a parade of shops on the outskirts of the city centre described as "poor" and "run-down".

Tension

There is a mosque and a church nearby but it is not an area where many feel comfortable.

But John, 44, who works in the area, said it was still a shock what happened and the way the two girls died.

Sophie Ellis, 18 and Latisha Shakespeare,17
Sophie Ellis (left) was injured but her friend Latisha Shakespeare died
"It is an area that frightens a lot of my colleagues," he said.

"They won't cross the road to go shopping there because they are frightened of being mugged.

"I have been over there but I'm male and not that intimidated and keep my eyes open.

"There is a level of tension and fear, people are looking over their shoulders because it is not a friendly place or where one would choose to live."

Outsiders

John said there was a feeling that a lot of the problems in the area were drug-related and people involved in the drug trade carried guns.

He said there were also concerns the problems associated with crack cocaine in other UK inner cities were spreading to Birmingham.

John does not think plans to impose extra penalties for possession of guns will make any difference.

"The men who shot these girls consider themselves outside the law," he said.

"They carry guns as male jewellery - to be 'gangstas' - and eventually they will use them.

"Unless we find a way to make them feel included, they will continue to kill and maim - because they have no value system other than brand names."


Click here to go to BBC Birmingham Online

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03 Jan 03 | England
03 Jan 03 | Politics
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