SECOND CITY GUN CAPITAL
Drug gang wars blamed for West Mids topping London
BIRMINGHAM is now the gun capital of Britain following a huge explosion in gang violence, official figures reveal.
Firearms offences in the region have rocketed by 86% – with West Midlands police recording 1,089 gun crimes in the 12 months to March, up from 584 the previous year.
The surge has seen the West Midlands, with a population of 2.9 million, overtake previous gun hotspot London, home to 8.8 million and where the Met Police – the country’s largest force – logged 1,087 gun crimes in the same period.
The shocking figures from the Office for National Statistics suggest little progress has been made since the deaths of Letisha Shakespeare, 17, and Charlene Ellis, 18.
The friends were killed as they left a New Year party in the early hours of January 2, 2003 and were caught in the crossfire of a turf war between rival Birmingham gangs the Burger Bar Boys and the Johnson Crew.
Letisha’s mum Marcia, who has dedicated her life to fighting gun and gang crime, said: “Unfortunately, it’s not a surprise.
“It’s sad that we’re back in the same place we were 20 years ago.”
Marcus Ellis, Nathan Martin, Michael Gregory and Rodrigo Simms, allegedly Burger Bar Boys, were jailed for life in 2005 for murdering Letisha and Charlene.
Marcia set up the Precious Trust charity and has been awarded an MBE for her work. She blames the surge in gun crime on factors including Covid, poverty and county lines dealers – and warns it will get worse without a long-term plan.
She said: “I’ve been screaming for more funding. But the Government’s not interested. All we get is shortterm fixes that don’t fix anything.
“More and more families are going to end up in the position we were 20 years ago, seeing their lives ripped apart. It’s a tragedy, a vicious cycle.”
Local campaigner Lynne Baird said county lines dealers entice kids with offers of £700 a week. She said: “They look at the lifestyle, the money, and they want a piece of that. It must be easier for them to get guns these days, if you move in those circles.”
Lynne – who has been pushing for lifesaving bleed kits to be rolled out since son Daniel, 26, was stabbed to death in Birmingham in 2017 – added: “Lives are being ruined but they don’t seem to care.”
West Midlands Police
Rich Cooke said the figures were
“alarming at face value”.
“There is no doubt the
[force] has one of the busiest, if not at times the busiest, firearms units in the UK. The reasons for this rise are not immediately obvious but need to be urgently understood.” Victims include Muhammed Sohail, 25, shot dead in Saltley last February, and Mohammed Kasim, 30, who died after being shot in
Small Heath last July. West Midlands Police dealt with 19 shootings and scores of firearms offences last July.
And in December, they seized weapons including shotguns and Skorpion machine guns.
Ex-johnson Crew member Simeon Moore, who turned his back on crime, said: “People drawn into that world are getting younger.
“There needs to be a culture change. These youths aren’t being groomed on the streets. It’s starting in their homes. Shoot-em-up games, drug dealing, gangster rap, Tiktok violence. They’re being programmed to think prison is normal, having a friend or family stabbed or shot is normal.
“You throw in poverty, lack of opportunity, broken homes and you have a perfect storm.”
Labour MP for Perry Barr in Birmingham, will meet the police commissioner and crime prevention partners next month for talks on tackling drugs and weapons.
He said: “It is predominantly related to drugs. We need to get the police back into communities. Resources matter. We need properly funded youth and support services.”
Preet Kaur Gill, Labour MP for Edgbaston, added: “It’s clear West Midlands Police need support to tackle firearm offences. Under the Tories, the force has had its resources slashed.” Across England
and Wales, there were 6,365 firearms offences in the year to March, according to the ONS – up 13%. Shadow Policing Minister Sarah Jones said: “These figures are a grim reminder the Tories are failing to get a grip on rising serious violence.”
West Midlands Police said inaccurate figures were supplied to the ONS and are being corrected, and firearm discharges in the region fell from 148 in 2021/22 to 117 last year.
The force said: “The data recorded was obtained from the Home Office. [It] includes crimes recorded where a firearm has been fired, used as a blunt instrument against a person or used as a threat.”
The ONS said it had not been made aware of any inaccuracies in its data.
Kids are being programmed to think prison or having a friend or family stabbed or shot is normal