‘They’re not go­ing to beat the com­mu­nity’

Mayor makes vow af­ter spate of shoot­ings.

Manchester Evening News - - NEWS - Chris Slater re­ports

THUGS who are in­tim­i­dat­ing lo­cals in Cheetham Hill ‘will not win,’ Andy Burn­ham promised as he vis­ited the area.

The M.E.N. this week re­ported a dis­pute be­tween two ri­val gangs has led to a se­ries of vi­o­lent at­tacks in the area in­volv­ing deadly weapons in the past few weeks.

There have been five shoot­ings and one in­ci­dent where ma­chetes were bran­dished since the be­gin­ning of Septem­ber and po­lice chiefs have ex­pressed fear in­no­cent peo­ple could be caught in the cross­fire.

The most re­cent wor­ry­ing at­tacks in­volved two shoot­ings that were just a few hun­dred yards and four days apart.

Two men were se­ri­ously in­jured in a sus­pected ‘drive-by’ shoot­ing on Cheetham Hill Road on Fri­day, Novem­ber 15, be­fore shots were fired into the floor at the Pre­mier Con­ve­nience Store on Mon­day evening.

In the wake of those in­ci­dents, busi­nesses in the area told the M.E.N. they have been left ter­ri­fied by the es­ca­lat­ing vi­o­lence.

But on a visit to the British Heart Foun­da­tion Fur­ni­ture store, Mr Burn­ham is­sued a de­fi­ant mes­sage that the area was open for busi­ness and would not be cowed.

“I speak to Greater Manch­ester Po­lice about all of those things,” he said. “Of course we have con­cerns. But this is a strong com­mu­nity. It’s a mi­nor­ity of peo­ple who are caus­ing some of the fear and the in­tim­i­da­tion. But they’re not go­ing to beat the com­mu­nity and the spirit peo­ple have here.

“It’s up to me to come down and re­as­sure peo­ple and to show them that, from my point of view as mayor and po­lice and crime com­mis­sioner, work­ing with the chief con­sta­ble, we have this com­mu­nity right up there in terms of pri­or­i­ties.”

GMP have launched Oper­a­tion Hea­mus to tackle the dis­pute and four men have so far been ar­rested and bailed in con­nec­tion with the six in­ci­dents.

“There’s a plan, and it’s work in progress,” Mr Burn­ham said. “But from the top, from me and from the chief con­sta­ble down­wards, the mes­sage I’m send­ing out by be­ing here is that we’re 100 per cent on with that plan and that we’ll do what it takes for as long as it takes to tackle it.”

Mr Burn­ham was in­vited to the British Heart Foun­da­tion by friend and ded­i­cated vol­un­teer Stephen Evans, 35, a life­long res­i­dent of Cheetham Hill. He was given a tour and was told of the char­ity shop’s schemes to cut waste go­ing to land­fill, along­side their work with the job cen­tre and pro­vid­ing vol­un­teer­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for those look­ing to get back into work. Mr Burn­ham said of the shop: “I know the Cheetham Hill com­mu­nity is a fan­tas­tic com­mu­nity.

“This is a fan­tas­tic oper­a­tion. Loads of vol­un­teers, they pro­vide a big ser­vice to the com­mu­nity and are pro­vid­ing fur­ni­ture to peo­ple who are po­ten­tially strug­gling. So it’s great to see.”

Store man­ager Craig Lap­pin, 41, said: “It’s great to have him here to see all the great work we’re do­ing in the com­mu­nity, what we’re do­ing with the vol­un­teers and what we’re do­ing to re­duce land­fill and pro­mote re­cy­cling.

“I ab­so­lutely love run­ning a shop here, it’s fan­tas­tic. It is a di­verse com­mu­nity and ev­ery­one gets on really well. You see a lot of the same faces ev­ery day, which is great and helps pro­mote that sense of com­mu­nity.

“Peo­ple are gen­er­ous and vir­tu­ally ev­ery­thing here has been do­nated by the lo­cal pub­lic.

“I don’t know much about what has been go­ing on but I feel very safe here.”

Andy Burn­ham with store man­ager Craig Lap­pin and staff at the British Heart Foun­da­tion shop in Cheetham Hill. Inset: Fri­day’s M.E.N. re­ported on the spate of shoot­ings

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