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WE'LL NAB THISSCUM; Detective calls on communities to name and shame culprits.

Byline: JOHN SIDDLE @jsiddle

MERSEYSIDE'S top anti-gun cop today urged communities blighted by gang crime: "Stand together against the scum that blight your lives."

In the wake of the 113-year sentences doled out to seven members of the notorious Croxteth Crew on Monday, the head of the force's elite Matrix unit vowed to crack down on gun crooks and pierce the wall of silence they run riot behind.

In a frank assessment of gun crime spreading from the heartlands of Liverpool and beyond, Detective Chief Superintendent Paul Richardson today revealed: ? Of 133 shootings in the past 12 months, just one victim had the courage to name their attacker. ? That female influences could be the key to pulling back teenagers from gang crime.

. ? The same guns are being used again and again as police snare scores of weapons from the streets.

. ? Areas of Liverpool are gripped by such a constant fear of gang crime that "petrified" parents won't let their children play outside.

But Mr Richardson today told of a fresh hope that empowered neighbourhoods will shop reckless gang members without fear of retribution.

In a direct message to ECHO readers, he said: "Be brave. Stand together against the scum that blight your quality of life."

The Croxteth Crew's terror campaign of punishment shootings and violent tit-for-tat attacks struck fear into Croxteth and beyond.

The gang members collected an arsenal of weapons and made petrol bombs out of Lucozade bottles filled with white spirit.

They were caught and convicted despite a criminals' code of silence and a reluctance among victims to come forward.

Such is the fear created by gangs in Liverpool that of 133 shootings between April 2012 and now - a 30% increase on the previous year - just one person fully co-operated with police.

Mr Richardson said: "Only in one of those cases did the victim actually say 'the person who shot me was 'X'.

"We believe in a large number of cases the person who was shot knew who shot them. I find it hard to believe that you wouldn't want justice if it happened to you.

"Fear is a major part of it. There's a culture where you don't speak to the police and what we have to do is get them speaking to someone and we will pick up the pieces and do the best with what we have.

"But the other side of it is that the people who are involved in gun crime are rotten to the core. One day they are the victim, the next they are the offender.

"Are they going to grass, as they put it, on the person shooting at them when tomorrow it may be the other way around?" Detectives admit that guns are out there - though they have made significant seizures in recent days, including an Uzi machine gun recovered in south Liverpool.

Matrix research indicates, however, that the same guns are being used in shootings time and time again. Some weapons have been linked to at least 12 incidents.

Mr Richardson said: "We are seeing guns being used more than once. That is either because the gunman feels confident about using that firearm or they are using it reluctantly because they are worried that if they get rid of it there won't be another one."

Ageing weapons, coupled with defective ammo and with unskilled fingers on the trigger makes gun crime chaotic and puts innocent people at risk.

Mr Richardson told how in the "hot spots" of Norris Green, Croxteth and Bootle, upstanding communities live in daily fear.

He said: "These disenfranchised urchins are going around causing a level of fear where parents won't let their children play on the streets for fear of being cajoled into a gang and being hurt."

Mr Richardson told how female influences could be key to stamping out gun crime. The only witnesses who stepped forward in the Croxteth Crew trial were women.

He said: "A significant influence on all these people are females - be it their girlfriends, mums or nans. They are really strong influences.

"We all love our mums and want to make them proud, and some of these idiots don't do that in any way whatsoever.

"One of the things we have tried to do is to get groups of females together so we can get this powerful message out that what these individuals are involved in shouldn't be seen as the community norm."

Mr Richardson said he hoped the Croxteth Crew convictions could give fresh impetus for people to bravely step forward.

He said: "We need the community to help us, even if that is simply ringing Crimestoppers anonymously and saying 'he was the person'.

"Once we get that snippet of information, I've got a team of tigers out there who will get to the bottom of it."

." ? Gun and gang crime can be reported to the Matrix team on 0151 777 5687 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111

Judge: 'Parts of our city in thrall to criminal gangs' THE top judge who caged the Croxteth Crew to a combined 113 years behind bars toldhowpartsofLiverpoolwere"inthrall to criminal gangs" in a damning assessment of gun crime in the city.

Mr Justice Openshaw described the seven members of the notorious gang as acting "as if they belonged to some separate outlawed tribe".

Sentencing the small-time drug dealers, whose feuding with rival gangs led to a spate of tit-for-tat shootings and firebombings, the judge condemned a wall of silence that allowed them to strike fear into Croxteth and beyond.

Mr Justice Openshaw said: "It is part of the gang's code or culture that no one speaks to the police or 'grasses', as they would put it: no one calls the police; at the scene no one tells the police what happened; no one makes a witness statement or if they do, they do not name names and if called upon to give evidence they resort to the unconvincing device of not remembering what were obviously memorable events.

"This code is r uthlessly enforced by the use of guns and firebombs, often brought to the scene by unregistered scrambler bikes, with the result that, despite the efforts of the police, parts of this city have been in thrall to criminal gangs.

"Victims and witnesses are reluctant to speak out and the absence of complaint makes prosecutions rare and convictions even rarer."

Mr Justice Openshaw also referred to the 266 shootings and 319 arson attacks in the city over two-and-a-half years and the "shocking statistic" that less than 1% of victims or intended victims had named their attacker.

But he praised the witnesses whose evidence saw the Croxteth Crew jailed after a two-month trial.

The judge said: "These are largely the result of tit-for-tat gangland violence. These offences have in the past resulted in a loss of confidence in the ability of the police and the criminal justice system.

"In less than 1% of shootings have the victim or the intended victim co-operated with the police - this is a truly shocking statistic, and it has severe consequences in the communities affected.

"Despite that, in this case some witnesses - all women, I might observe - with obvious hesitation but with considerable courage they have spoken out, plainly weary of the conflicts raging round them and engulfing their families."

During their trial the Croxteth Crew were described as a feuding street gang who had no qualms about shooting at people in the street or bur ning down the homes of rivals.

Enemies were chased through the streets, ambushed with pistols, beaten up and one was even kneecapped during an 18-month campaign of violence.

The sentences were as follows: Anthony Jewell, 21, of Walmersley Road, Bury, 25 years; Mark Thomas, 19, of Stonedale Crescent, Croxteth, 20 years, and Barry Burke, 19, also of Stonedale Crescent, 16 years.

Ryan Holden, 20, of Montrovia Road, Fazakerley, was jailed for 16 years. Kyle Smith-Milson, 18, of Longmoor Lane, Fazakerley, will serve 15 years, as will Sam Hughes, 20, of Exford Road, Croxteth. Sean Byrne, 20, of Stonedale Crescent, was jailed for six years for supplying class A and class B drugs.

MAN IN CUSTODY AFTER TEENS SHOT A MAN arrested after two teenagers were shot in a Bootle street remained in custody.

Police arrested the 22-year-old man in Toxteth on Monday after two 15-year-old boys were taken to hospital with gunshot wounds.

A police spokesman last night said the man was still being held.

Officers were called to reports of shots fired at the junction of Hanlon Avenue and Ainsdale Drive just after 8.30pm.

Both boys were taken to hospital suffering from leg injuries thought to be caused by shotgun pellets.

One was later discharged and one was still being treated.

Police sealed off the scene for forensic examinations and carried out house-to-house enquiries.

Chief Superintendent Nikki Holland, area Commander for Sefton, said: "This incident shows a complete disregard for local residents. While we believe that this was a targeted incident this was an extremely reckless act that could have had tragic consequences."

Anyone with information can call Matrix on 0151 777 5687 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

SEARCH FOR WEAPONS A SEARCH for more ammunition drew a blank after a shotgun and flare were discovered on wasteground near a railway line in Liverpool.

On Monday Merseyside neighbourhood police officers on patrol in Stanley Road, Kirkdale found the flare gun in bushes near the track.

A shotgun and ammunition was discovered during a wider search.

The area was taped off but further searches in the area throughout yesterday did not turn up anything.

Forensic teams were examining the weapons.

Superintendent Mark Wiggins, from the Liverpool North command team said: "These seizures represent a significant blow to the criminals who had been hiding them to use on our streets.

CAPTION(S):

WARNING: Det Chief Supt Paul Richardson with one of the weapons seized from Croxteth crew members
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:May 1, 2013
Words:1650
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