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Last Updated: Monday, 11 October, 2004, 13:13 GMT 14:13 UK
Community saddened and fearful
By Dominic Casciani
BBC News Online community affairs reporter in Nottingham

Flowers and cards at shooting scene
Flowers and messages were left at the spot where Danielle was shot
Until Saturday morning, Nottingham Police were sitting on a small victory for crime-fighting in the city.

After seven shooting deaths in two years, and an average of one shooting incident a week through 2003, there had been nothing for months - just one injury from a gun-related incident in May.

But that all changed in the early hours of Saturday.

Nottingham woke to learn a 14-year-old girl, Danielle Beccan, had been shot dead while walking back home from the annual and historic Goose Fair.

Many residents of the St Ann's area of the city, where Danielle was caught in a seemingly motiveless shooting, say they are scared and afraid to speak out.

That fear runs contrary to St Ann's history as a strong tightly-knit community, a place where the stereotype of people caring about their neighbours used to ring true.

Yards away from Danielle's home lies the spot where she was shot. It is covered in cards, teddies and bunches of flowers from friends and passers-by.

I've lived all my life in St Ann's and I have never felt like I do now, scared that something has gone completely wrong around here
Anonymous resident of St Ann's

Despite the wind, some of the candles are still burning.

"I know you have gone to a better place, but I don't think it was your time yet," reads one card from six friends.

"Parents aren't meant to bury their children."

The latest to visit the scene on Monday was Nottinghamshire's chief constable Steve Green.

He said he wanted to speak directly to local people to stress how important they are to bringing the killer to justice.

While forensics officers were emptying drains and looking for clues, the suspicion among locals is that the chances of finding the culprits are slim.

"I can't sleep at night," says one mother of two.

Like most other residents, she does not want to be named.

"I was up when it happened and I will never forget hearing the shouting for help. I don't want my kids to grow up seeing this on their doorstep.

"I've lived all my life in St Ann's and I have never felt like I do now, scared that something has gone completely wrong around here."

Police search drains for clues to shooting

What has gone wrong in Nottingham is no different to the other cities battling gun crime.

With the exception of the odd armed robbery, guns were essentially unheard of in the city until the arrival of crack.

Unofficial estimates suggest there are 3,500 addicts, predominantly found in St Ann's, the Meadows and the Radford Road areas of the inner city.

Crack dealing is run by gangs who seek to increase their influence by buying the loyalty of young people who believe membership of a criminal fraternity gains them street respect.

And one way of showing that respect is by carrying a gun.

As one local man put it: "Danielle wasn't shot by someone from around here. But there are people carrying these weapons in St Ann's because they want to look good when fronting up to others."

Rev Ratcliffe
What's happened is catastrophic but there is good work going on in this area to try and tackle the problems that exist
Rev Anna Ratcliff
Chasewood Baptist Church

Nottinghamshire Police's Operation Stealth has made hundreds of arrests over two years in its effort to crush the gangs.

Most controversially, it deployed armed patrols in key areas to convince the community that the streets do not belong to the criminals.

At the same time, Chief Constable Green continues a public battle with ministers over whether Nottingham has enough officers. Many in the city say not.

But according to the Reverend Anna Ratcliff, while police numbers are an issue, most people are simply trying to understand how a 14-year-old girl can die this way.

The Beccan family are regular members of Rev Ratcliff's congregation at the Chasewood Baptist Church.

She has a message to the rest of the city: Stand up to the gunmen.

"There are people who say they are scared in St Ann's but that is just part of the story," she says.

"There are many families who live and work here and send their children to school here and enjoy being part of this community. We must not let these acts demonise the area.

Targeting youths

"What's happened is catastrophic but there is good work going on in this area to try and tackle the problems that exist."

Not only are there well-used community facilities but a variety of agencies are working hard to target the most marginalised youths in the area, she says.

The church itself has just taken on a youth worker for street outreach, recognising it is unlikely to get the kids it needs to target into church itself.

Most importantly, says Rev Ratcliff, the country as a whole has to think hard about solving the wider problems in society that ultimately led to Danielle's death.

"Society has to ask itself what makes young people who are intelligent with their life ahead of them feel that [gang membership] is the route they have to take."

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