Desperate street gangs ‘using Victorian guns with home-made ammo’
Gangs in Birmingham have taken to manufacturing their own ammunition to use with ancient firearms as gun crime in the city is on the increase.
Weapons dating back to the 19th century have been seized by police and there are concerns that incidents of shootings on the streets are in danger of heading back to levels last seen a decade ago.
West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson said that although it is still rare for guns to be discharged, there had been a “spike” recently in cases where firearms were used.
A hundred and fifty years ago Birmingham factories turned out most of the army’s ammunition from outlets in what became known as the Gun Quarter. The skills of yesterday appear to have been dusted off and are being used for unlawful purposes.
Mr Jamieson said:
It is actually quite difficult to buy ammunition legally, so what we are seeing are criminal gangs making their own ammo in some cases.
There have also been examples of so-called legacy guns being used, some of them dating back more than a hundred years. We think there is a falling out between gangs and turf wars going on. It is very worrying.
Mr Jamieson stressed that gun and gang-related offences remained rare and largely confined to a few specific inner city areas of Birmingham.
It’s not a big problem across the West Midlands, only in certain areas, but for those people living in these areas it is a serious business.
The number of known discharges from guns averaged about three a month at the beginning of 2015, but rose to 11 in October and eight in December. A similar spike in gun use has been recorded in Manchester and London, Mr Jamieson confirmed.
A lot of work is being done in communities, particularly in schools, talking to children about the dangers of gang culture and getting involved. We want to empower communities to take more control of their own streets.
Stressing that “we cannot arrest our way out of this”, Mr Jamieson said police had to tackle gun crime at community level. “We have to find out why youngsters are joining gangs rather than getting work or going to university. The community has to say ‘hang on, there is something wrong with a small minority of teenagers’ and take action to turn things around.”
West Midlands chief constable Dave Thompson issued a warning about the challenges of dealing with increasing gun crime during his first week in the job.
Mr Thompson, who is the national police lead on gun crime, said:
The level of gun crime has been low in the force since the 2011 disorders. Whilst we have not drifted back into the dark days of the past where Handsworth, Lozells and Aston had names notorious with gun crime there is no question we face the most demanding period we have seen for some time with some very serious incidents.
In my time in Manchester I was the Commander for Moss Side and Longsight – two areas that experienced some of the worst gun crime in the country – and I saw first-hand too many tragedies.
It was my passion to prevent this that sees me leading national work on gangs and firearms. Getting on top of this spike and bringing people to justice for shootings and firearms supply is my top operational priority. There is some good and solid work on-going to address this.
The police commissioner has also written to Home Secretary Theresa May asking her to ban the sale of so-called zombie knives – blades with handles painted in bright colours increasingly popular among street gangs.
Mr Jamieson said he wanted online shopping giants like Amazon, where the knives can be bought for as little as £19.99, to take a lead in banning their sale.
With names like death dagger and head splitter it’s obvious you aren’t going to buy these to peel the potatoes.
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