2007-08-24 : Britons reel under fusillade of gun crime

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2007-08-24 : Britons reel under fusillade of gun crime

Postby GOSA » Fri, 2007-09-21 07:29

Britons reel under fusillade of gun crime

By Katherine Haddon

Two British teenagers have been arrested after an 11-year-old
boy was shot dead, the latest in a wave of youngsters' violent deaths
which has forced inner city gun crime right up the political agenda.

Rhys Jones was playing football in a pub car park in Liverpool,
north-west England, on Wednesday night when he was shot by a hooded
youth riding a BMX bicycle, Merseyside police said.

Officers were questioning two youths aged 18 and 14 after the
attack, which Prime Minister Gordon Brown described as "a heinous
crime that has shocked the whole of the country".

Since taking over from Tony Blair on June 27, Brown has
signalled that law and order will remain a priority amid a string of
high profile cases of young people shot dead, often in deprived urban

At least six teenagers have been killed in shootings in London
since February, while the city of Manchester has also seen a string of
gun attacks involving young people.

While gun crime represents less than half a percent of all
recorded offences in Britain, official figures show that the number of
crimes involving firearms has been increasing since 1997/98.

And the number of young people prosecuted over firearms offences
jumped 20% between 2001 and 2005 to 1 444.

Blair's government brought in a series of measures designed to
toughen up on gun crime, including introducing a minimum five-year
sentence for people convicted of possessing an illegal firearm.

And Brown, who hosted a pre-arranged summit on youth disorder
and gangs at Downing Street yesterday, seems determined to stick to
the same path.

His Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, has just outlined plans to
sign up thousands of families to antisocial behaviour contracts a
voluntary agreement aimed at tackling low level crime to nip violence
in the bud.

"I want people to know I'm serious when I say that where there
is violent crime we'll take tough action," she said yesterday.

The leader of the main opposition Conservatives, David Cameron,
said he wanted to tackle what he described as "anarchy in parts of the
UK" by banning young offenders from holding or applying for a driving

Assistant Chief Constable Simon Byrne of Merseyside Police, the
force investigating Rhys's killing, accepted that gun crime was part
of everyday life in parts of Britain.

He appealed to people to turn the gunman in, adding: "You can
only imagine the heartache of the family who have been ripped apart by
a senseless crime."

Many local residents in the suburb of Croxteth, where Rhys lived
and was shot, claim they live in fear of gun crime.

One woman said: "The kids pass the guns around each other as if
they were football collector cards.

"There is no mystique about guns, there's no fear, they are just
a status symbol. And now it seems anyone who wants one can get hold of

Richard Garside, director of the Centre for Crime and Justice
Studies at King's College London, said there was some evidence of
increasing violent crime affecting young people.

"If what we're seeing are the cumulative effects of long-term
social changes, it is unlikely they will be susceptible to significant
impact if you focus on (law and order issues)," he said.

"You need to focus on wider economic policies, including
decreasing provision of social housing and an increase in consumer
culture." - Sapa-AFP

Published on the web by Star on August 24, 2007.
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