Pubdate: Wed, 01 Mar 2006
Source: Liverpool Echo (UK)
Copyright: 2006 Trinity Mirror Plc
Authors: James Glover, & Mike Hornby, Liverpool Echo
Bookmark: (Heroin)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - United Kingdom)


TWO gangs of teenagers hurl insults at one another across a city 
street - then a gunshot rings out. A teenage boy stands outside a 
city school, selling wraps of heroin.

Welcome to the world of the Croxteth Crew and the Strand Crew where 
casual violence is a way of life, guns can be hired from "lending 
libraries" to settle feuds, and drug dealing is a way of earning a wage.

The clashes that today cause bloodshed and fear trace their roots 
back to playground rivalry at gang members' old schools.

An historic turf war between youths has turned streets into 
battlegrounds and parks into no-go zones.

Croxteth and Norris Green have been the hub of the region's gun crime 
in the past year despite the efforts of Merseyside police's anti-gun 
Matrix unit and local officers.

Shootings are becoming all too common.

On average, since January last year, one teenager every month has 
been blasted with gunfire on the estates - 14 victims in 14 months.

Another 11 people have been shot in the area during the same period, 
but the real victims are those residents forced to stay in their 
homes for fear that they could be caught up in the bloodshed.

At the heart of the problem are the two teenage gangs, whose 
playground feuds have escalated into turf wars over drugs.

About 20 youngsters, all white and aged between 14 and 17, are 
involved, carrying firearms equipped with home-made bullets.

Detectives say their parents are encouraging the gang members to 
refuse to speak to police when they get shot.

Drug dealers have been seen using phone boxes on the Broad Lane 
junction with Broadway

Officers meet with a wall of silence from locals too frightened of 
repercussions to speak out.

Ask anyone in the neighbourhoods about the gangs and you're likely to 
be met with the same reaction: "I know nothing".

But locals do know the places to avoid after dark:

* The area outside St Teresa's primary school in Sedgemoor Road is a 
known pitch for young gang members to sell drugs. After the school 
closes and pupils and teachers have left, the entrance becomes an 
unofficial trading post for the teen dealers on bikes who take orders 
by phone and then ride off to get the amount of drugs wanted.

* Phone boxes in Lorenzo Drive, in Norris Green are used as a base 
for teenage drug dealers setting up scores for addicts.

* The phone box on the corner of the bustling Broadway shopping 
parade - just yards from busy Townsend Avenue - is the latest pick-up 
point for the heroin-selling youths.

What people living in Croxteth and Norris Green cannot predict is 
where the next drug-dealing pitch will be set up - it could be yards 
from their home or their child's school - or when the shootings 
between the gangs will spread to their doorsteps.

Local parks such as that off Swin-brook Green have been abandoned to the gangs.

Younger children are ordered by their parents to stay close to their 
homes rather than venture near where the gangs hang out, and where 
children as young as 12 have been seen smoking cannabis.

Adults keep themselves to themselves and maintain a silence when 
police visit homes investigating the latest shooting incident.

Being caught informing to police - or even being accused of informing 
- - could cost them dearly.

That climate of fear, where even regular police patrols cannot coax 
residents into surrendering a snippet of information, allows the drug 
gangs to ride around the estate in relative freedom.

They feel secure there will never be a witness willing to go 
on-therecord to police or the ECHO.

One resident said: "I feel like going out and having a go at them but 
you know it will only lead to you having your windows done in.

"They smashed up all the cars in my road last year just because they 
felt like it. Just think what they'd do if they thought we were 
speaking to the police.

"Everyone knows who is involved in this war over drugs but no-one 
wants to get involved."

Another woman added: "They're on the corner, by the shop or in the 
garden of the empty house round the corner.

"They are always there, waiting to recruit some poor kid who is just 
bored and looking for excitement.

"That's how it starts, God knows where it will end."

The gang war is more about personalities than streets.

A former council housing officer, who worked in Croxteth for eight 
years, said: "Both gangs want to tie up the whole area and then move 
on to the next.

"Whoever comes out on top will be eyeing up the next expansion of 
their business, over Queens Drive or the East Lancs," he said.

"The only people who are safe are those at the top, who have made so 
much money they can move away and direct the business from afar."

Following the gangland wars, which have taken place on and off for 
the past 15 years, it's believed there are now just six key drugs 
gangs operating in and around the city.

Some areas remain in the hands of the same families which have 
dominated since the 1980s, other families have lost out.
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