Postcode gangs bringing chaos and tragedy to Wolverhampton streets
Gangs waging postcode wars are using social media to provoke rival gang members, leading to “chaotic behaviour” and tragedy.
Teenagers as young as 13 are members of new youth gangs based around postcodes and are using weapons in Wolverhampton, according to neighbourhood policing inspector, Steve Worker.
They record music videos and share them on Youtube, firing off verbal attacks at other gangs, which then provokes a physical retaliation.
The news comes after a number of shocking attacks involving teenagers with weapons in recent weeks – including a six-year-old boy who was injured after a sawn-off shotgun was fired at his family home in Ashbourne Road.
And at the end of last month, three men were stabbed in a night of violence in Wolverhampton, and days later another man was stabbed three times near the University of Wolverhampton.
Inspector Worker said the attacks are sporadic, but that the incidents in recent weeks have been due to “ongoing tensions between a number of gangs”.
Postcodes, knives and guns
The gangs are centred around postcode areas.
In Wolverhampton, Heath Town, Graiseley and Blakenhall are areas police are seeing youths form postcode gangs, an issue that has been escalating for about five years.
The situation in Wolverhampton is replicated in big cities across the UK. Its basis is the human instinct to hold and protect territory.
But fed into that is a culture where carrying a knife has become standard, often escalating to firearms, and where bragging rights and taunts fester online.
Birmingham has its own problem of postcode gangs. And in London it is behind an explosion in violence, especially in the south of the city.
It is a world that must people are unaware of, until it blows up with a violent attack in their neighbourhood. There is also the potential for people wholly unconnected with the gangs to get caught up in the violence simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Insp Worker said: “This year we’ve started to see a few more incidents with guns and firearms. It’s not regular, it’s been sporadically.
“Something triggers it, then there is chaotic behaviour and tragically people do get hurt, but then there’s nothing for the next few months.
“Over the last six to eight weeks where we’ve had the most recent issues, it’s not a rise, it’s ongoing tensions between a number of gangs in Wolverhampton.
“But in terms of firearms discharges there has been eight since January 1 that we can be confident are gang related and we have recovered six firearms off the streets and investigations are ongoing.
“We’ve got a number of tactics in place to try and understand what is going on.”
Specialist police teams
West Midlands Police is trying to deal with gang crime in Wolverhampton by having more police on the streets, sending officers into schools and working proactively to stop potential crime.
Insp Worker said there is a specialist gangs team that looks at the intelligence and tries to disband the gangs, as well as an offender management team.
And victims of violent crime admitted to hospital are now being supported by a new team of youth workers stationed at Wolverhampton's emergency department.The idea is to intervene before the violence escalates.
Police officers involved in the fight are aware of the need to deal with the causes of gang violence as well as punish those who do wrong.
Insp Worker added: “We do a lot of work with the families of young people to try and keep them out of gangs or get them out as soon as we can.
“We have prioritised reserves for additional patrols, the community should be seeing a bigger police presence, and we do a lot of work with schools.
“It’s a fine balance between doing proactive stuff and reacting to what has happened.”
Four established youth gangs
He added that the teens in gangs are “a small minority”, but that when police speak to groups of young people they will “deny all knowledge of gangs”.
Young people are often too scared to give information about perpetrators.
“There are currently four established youth-type gangs in Wolverhampton,” he said. It’s not something that is escalating out of control, it’s very sporadic..
Police are asking families with concerns about gang activity among loved ones to help fight the problem. They can contact Crimestoppers anonymously, or 101 and ask for the offender management unit
Insp Worker said: “I can understand it must be a really difficult situation for families, but ultimately you’re looking to protect that child. It is alarming and for their families it must be awful – but this is not an epidemic.”
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