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Anger at Tory's Wire comparison

25 August 09 19:44 GMT

People in south Manchester have reacted angrily after the Conservative Party compared Moss Side to the Wire, a US series depicting inner-city drug wars.

Shadow home secretary Chris Grayling argued the UK was suffering the same culture of gangs and street violence highlighted in the fictional drama.

He based his comments on a recent visit to Moss Side, which he claimed was experiencing an "urban war".

Community campaigner Erinma Bell said local people were "annoyed".

The Wire has been acclaimed for its realistic portrayal of the struggle between police and drug gangs on the streets of Baltimore in Maryland.

Mr Grayling made his comments in a speech in Westminster on Tuesday following a visit to Moss Side on 26 June.

He said The Wire had become a byword for "urban deprivation and societal breakdown in modern America" and was evident on the streets of Britain.

But he began his speech detailing his visit to Moss Side, which Mrs Bell, who leads the Carisma group and helps to run a community radio station, said had angered people.

"It's very unfair. It's not urban warfare at all because that paints a particular kind of picture about this area," she said.

"We've had several text messages from local people who are actually very annoyed by his comments, who also know that Moss Side is not like that anymore.

"Moss Side is a very nice place to live - people want to live here."

Councillor Jim Battle, deputy leader of Manchester City Council, branded the shadow minister's comments "outrageous".

Maureen Noble, head of the council's crime and disorder unit, said: "The allegations simply do not match the reality of the crime figures for the area."

Three killed

Greater Manchester Police (GMP), which hosted Mr Grayling's tour of the area, said there had been a "tremendous and sustained" reduction in shootings in the city.

Det Supt Darren Shenton, of the force's gun crime unit Xcalibre, said there had been 84 "firearms discharges" in 2008/09. In 2007/08 the figure was 146.

Since April, there have been three fatal shootings across Greater Manchester. None of them were in Moss Side.

Mr Shenton said the relatively low number of shootings was testament to the hard work of his officers, councils, partner agencies and community groups.

"I think at times words - and the reporting of words - can be quite damaging," he added.

"Some of the comments I've had from people who live in this area don't recognise the words that he's used today."

In an interview with the BBC, Mr Grayling stood by his comparison between Britain's inner cities and the critically-acclaimed US programme.

"I didn't say Moss Side equals Baltimore. What I said is that we have in Moss Side symptoms of a gang conflict in this country which I find profoundly disturbing," said Mr Grayling.

While paying tribute to the work of GMP officers, he added that "the nature of the challenge they face is a gang culture that's alive and strong and dangerous in that part of the city".

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