Following the murder conviction of Connor Chapman, who shot and killed Elle Edwards outside a pub on Christmas Eve, police experts say efforts to tackle gang crime in Merseyside have been compromised by a lack of information in the area and a “disruptive state of affairs.” said to be hampered by a lack of “good boys”.
The death of a 26-year-old hairdresser — an innocent bystander who was just drinking with friends — culminated in a violent feud between two Wirral gangs.
The day before the shooting, a man who lived on the same Woodchurch estate as Chapman was seriously injured by two men on a rival Ford/Beechwood estate directly across the M53 road.
A Liverpool court has ruled that the pair were deliberate targets for Chapman, who was seeking revenge for the incident and two recent shootings.
For Chapman, crime was part of everyday life. He tried to convince jurors that he was “just a drug dealer” and not a murderer.
The 23-year-old was involved in relatively minor crimes at an early age and spent much of his late teens in and out of custody.
During his trial, Chapman said Christmas 2022 was the first time he had not spent at least three years in prison.
Chapman was a member of over 100 organized crime groups (OCG) believed to operate on Merseyside.
He was not a member of a large gang that imports Class A and B drugs and is involved in serious crimes involving gun supply, money laundering, modern slavery, and human trafficking. bottom.
Rather, he was part of a gang based in a small geographical area.
How is Merseyside affected by gun crime?
- Merseyside Police have recorded 211 firearm crimes in 2021-2022, making it one of the 10 worst-hit areas in England and Wales.
- This represented a 51% increase over the previous year, when 140 firearm crimes were recorded, but remained below pre-pandemic levels, when 227 crimes were recorded.
- London (1,066) and West Midlands (585) recorded the highest number of firearm crimes in 2021-2022
- Nationally, police recorded 5,752 firearm crimes in the year to March 2022, down from 6,618 crimes recorded before the pandemic.
- A total of 35 firearm fatalities have been reported in England and Wales in the year to March 2021, compared with 27 in the previous year.
Merseyside Police are digging into the grassroots to confront gangs and try to understand why organized crime has taken hold in some communities.
They then try to eliminate the gang leader or disable the gang’s activities.
But senior police officers admit that simply “arresting” will not solve the problem, and that the answer lies within the community itself.
They work to make the areas where criminals operate “toxic”.
A project targeting three estates in Wirral has seen a significant increase in policing, with 379 arrests, 740 arrests and searches, and 90 warrant executions in the first four months of 2023. .
Officers say they seized weapons, luxury goods and cash, as well as cannabis plants worth £1.3 million.
Former Senior Police Officer Peter Williams is a Senior Lecturer at John Moores University Liverpool Advanced Police Research Centre.
He believes there needs to be a return to “beat buddies” and greater policing of communities.
Since austerity measures in 2010, “the chief executive has had to withdraw from neighboring teams,” he says, “but that role has been an important part of the partnership working.
“Vacuum areas in small geographic areas have allowed criminal groups to invade.”
Williams echoes Elle Edwards’ father, Tim, who says parents need to take more responsibility for their children.
“The most powerful thing we have is a sense of community. In the old days, if you stepped out of line, some family members would find out and clip your ears.
“Some intervention would be needed to prevent more from happening. I think we’ve lost it.”
Edwards acknowledged that many residents were threatened by local gangs, but urged people to “unite”.
“We can blame the government, we can blame Congress and the people who let you down, let your community down.
“But they don’t live in your house every day. You live with your children. So at the end of the day, it’s really about you and how you raise those children.” It depends on.”
Williams says there is also a serious information gap at the USG (Urban Street Gang) and OCG levels.
“What I’m trying to say is, to some extent, it’s due to the abolition of the neighborhood police and the almost withdrawal from the area.”
He said there was a need to revive policing at the local level as it would not only help address the fear of crime but also revitalize the flow of information.
While Merseyside Police already have a lot of work to do and have been rated ‘outstanding’ by the HMIC for tackling serious organized crime every year since 2014, the number of firearm crimes has fallen in recent years. kept constant.
In 2005, it became the first unit outside London to set up a dedicated firearms and anti-gang unit, the Matrix, with specially trained police officers.
Central to The Matrix’s activities is the removal of weapons from the streets.
The gun used in the attack that killed Edwards was a Scorpion submachine gun made in the Czech Republic.
It is a military-grade weapon that can operate in a variety of semi-automatic and fully-automatic modes and can fire up to 14 rounds per second.
“The weapons issue is a longstanding one,” Williams said. “When the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 and the Wall of Europe opened, it started to emerge.
“The fact that Liverpool is a port makes smuggling easier. Liverpool has always had a drug problem, which has allowed the OCG to take hold.
“With robberies and vehicle theft virtually gone, crime has changed again. The big profit opportunities are in drugs.”
Additional reporting by Monica Rimmer and Phil McCann