Pubdate: Sun, 27 Mar 2005
Source: Observer, The (UK)
Copyright: 2005 The Observer
Author: Tony Thompson and Martin Bright, The Observer


Chief Constable Vows To Carry On Fight As Gun Crime And Drug Culture
Puts Regional Police Force Under Pressure

Police in Nottinghamshire were congratulating themselves last week on
the conviction of the man who murdered Andrew Chikiondi Banda, a
small-time drug dealer who came to Britain from Malawi in search of a
better life. Banda had been sucked into the gangs and guns culture of
the city dubbed 'Shottingham' and paid for it with his life.

At first glance the conviction looks like a victory for the
Nottinghamshire force which, according to its own Chief Constable,
Steve Green, is in the middle of a crisis. But for many of his critics
it will provide further evidence that he has allowed crime in the city
to spiral out of control. In the next few weeks, Green will face a
barrage of further criticism, which could seriously undermine his
chances of remaining in the post.

The force is already the subject of an inquiry by Her Majesty's
Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) ordered by Charles Clarke, the
Home Secretary, into its ability to deal with murder and other serious
crimes. The inspectorate's report is due to be published before 4
April, just before the start of the election campaign.

It is likely to be unflattering, as it will examine Green's decision
to take frontline officers off the streets in some of Nottingham's
highest crime areas, something he was later forced to reverse.

At the same time, a further inquiry is being conducted by the
Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) into the murder of a
Nottinghamshire couple who had been moved to Lincolnshire for their
own safety after a series of threats. The couple were shot dead
minutes after placing a call to Nottinghamshire police to report a
prowler. The inquiry will focus on the level of intelligence-sharing
between the Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire forces.

Graham Allen, the MP for Nottingham North, has lodged a further
complaint with the IPCC over comments Green made to a Sunday newspaper
two weeks ago. Green said that the force was preparing to 'farm out'
murder inquiries as his officers did not have time to investigate them.

'I believe he has been guilty of serious misjudgment,' Graham Allen
told The Observer. 'Not just in giving the interview but in his
original decision to take beat officers off the streets of

Banda had arrived in Nottingham with high hopes. The happily married
26-year-old from Malawi came to Britain to study and dreamed of one
day running his own business. He was not a gangster and had no
criminal record, but after a few months of living in the city he could
no longer resist the lure of the seemingly easy money to be made in
the area's burgeoning drugs trade.

In April 2004 he invited two teenagers to his house, produced a small
block of cocaine worth UKP225 and asked them to sell it on his behalf.
The pair passed the drugs on to a 17-year-old who decided to keep both
the drug and the money for himself. When Banda complained, the boy and
two friends went to Banda's house and stabbed him to death.

On closer inspection, the Banda case is yet further evidence of the
problems the force is trying to overcome. Although the 17-year-old was
convicted, he is not believed to have struck the fatal blow and
charges against the suspected killer and another alleged accomplice
were dropped through lack of evidence.

It was a repeat of a situation days earlier when Peter Williams was
jailed for the fatal shooting of a jeweller, Marian Bates. Williams is
not thought to have pulled the trigger of the murder weapon and the
chief suspect is still at large. The Bates case also revealed a number
of shortcomings in the work of the force's detective branch.

Nottingham's gun crime problem is often blown out of proportion. It
currently ranks fifth beneath London, Manchester, Liverpool and the
West Midlands for firearms-related crime. But whereas in other cities
the problem has grown steadily since the mid-1980s, in Nottingham it
virtually exploded overnight. In 2002 the city experienced more
shooting incidents than it had in the previous seven years combined.
The force is at present running no fewer than 30 murder investiga
tions and has now run out of major incident rooms and experienced
detectives capable of leading murder inquiries.

The entire force for the county consists of just 2,500 officers, and
even though this figure has grown in recent years many locals believe
it still falls far short of what is needed. In the absence of an
effective police presence, parts of the community are addressing the
matter themselves.

Pastor Joan Francis of the King's Hall Christian Centre, now leads
thrice-weekly Prayer Patrols throughout the troubled district of St
Ann's. The centre backs onto the green where 14-year-old Danielle
Beccan was gunned down on her way home from a fair last October.
Danielle's mother is a member of the congregation. Pastor Francis
hopes the patrols will reduce tension and fear of crime within the

Next month will see the launch of Nottingham Mothers Against Crime, a
pressure group set up by Hyacinth France in response to the murder of
Danielle Beccan. The group aims to run a series of projects aimed at
keeping youths occupied and out of trouble. 'The last four people who
have been shot in Nottingham,' says France, 'are people that I have
known. It has been a bad couple of years, but Steve Green is a good
man. He is doing his job but he has a very difficult job to do.

'St Ann's is still a good area. I've lived here for 22 years and I've
never had a problem, but I want to keep my children safe.'
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