‘They’re not going to beat the community’
Mayor makes vow after spate of shootings.
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