Huge rise in gun crime in Merseyside, linked to gang feuds and availability of weapons
by Rachel McMahon
In 2017 there have been over 50 shootings in Merseyside, triggering widespread fears of gang-related turf and drug wars. The county has witnessed a 50% rise in gun crime over the past year, most incidents of which have been targeted, and directly linked to the increasing availability of weapons.
Key shootings this year include:
January - Three targeted attacks in January, with a man shot in the arm in the Anfield/Everton area on the 10th, another shot in Stockbridge village, and a third fatally shot in Old Swan, named locally as Thomas Baker.
February - This was followed by another murder on the 1st February in Wavertree, with the victim being named locally as Aaron Lewis. Both fatal shootings were the direct result of gang-related violence in the areas. Another shooting in Stockbridge Village on the 27th February saw a man shot in the hand.
April - There were two drive-by shootings in April, in Bootle on the 7th and in Norris Green on the 11th. On the 24th of the same month a teenager was shot in the leg in Tuebrook.
May - On the 8th May two men were injured in a targeted shooting in Netherton, followed by another man injured on the 19th in Wavertree.
June - The 1st of June saw two targeted shootings in Seaforth and Fazakerley, where a man was injured in each separate incident. And on the 2nd another shooting resulted in the third murder, a teenager named as Yusuf Sonko who was gunned down in Toxteth. On the 6th a man was shot in the leg in Kirkby, followed by another shooting the following day in Speke, in which a man was shot in the thigh. Throughout the rest of the month another three major shootings occurred: one on the 19th where a man was shot in Belle Vale, and two others on the 23rd in Walton, one of which was a targeted drive-by shooting near Walton prison, and another just hours later resulting in the injury of a teenager.
July - Two incidents in July, on the 12th in Kirkdale, and on the 17th in Kirkby, resulted in no injuries but have been identified as targeted.
What is notable about these incidents is that the concentration of gun crime in Merseyside has been mostly refined to Sefton, Liverpool and Knowsley, but within these areas has been spread across a number of places, particularly within Liverpool. Certain areas of the city, including Wavertree, Bootle, and Walton, have witnessed more shootings than others, indicating that there are gangs operating within these areas that are increasingly resorting to extreme tactics. The sheer ruthlessness of these attacks and the serious injuries that they have caused could also indicate that gangs are becoming more emboldened and less wary of the potential consequences. The significant number of injuries, such as to the arm or the leg, in comparison to the number of fatalities, could indeed indicate that most of the shootings have been intended to warn rather than murder.
A key factor directly linked to the increase in Merseysideâs shootings is the increasing availability of handguns. Distinct from shotguns due to their greater lethality, handguns have been involved in a large number of shootings, particularly throughout June 2017. A surge in the use of Glock pistols smuggled in from Eastern Europe have also been linked to a number of shootings, including the murder of Aaron Lewis. This alongside police budget cuts, which have been reduced by almost Â£100 million, as well as the lack of cooperation from residents of the county, is likely to continue to hamper efforts to reduce gun crime in Merseyside in the near future.