Gun and gang violence in Salford will not be sorted inside a decade, the new Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police has warned.
Ian Hopkins, who took over from Sir Peter Fahy in October, said the 21 shootings in the past 18 months were down to a “hard core of criminals who have embedded themselves in parts of Salford and Swinton”.
In his outgoing interview with the BBC Fahy said it would take 10 years to eradicate Salford’s gun-toting crime gangs, but the new chief says it could take much longer than that.
“I think it’s going to take a long time to rid Salford of its organised crime groups,” said Hopkins.
“What we’re dealing with are generational problems.”
Gun violence flared in the city after disputes broke out between warring families in the Little Hulton, Walkden and Bolton areas, and organised crime groups in central Salford and Swinton.
The most high-profile of these attacks are the still-unsolved murder of Paul Massey in July and the shooting of 7-year-old Christian Hickey and his mother on their doorstep in Winton in October.
Mr Massey was gunned down in a hail of bullets from what police believe is an automatic handgun. The 55-year-old was shot four times outside his home on Manchester Road in Clifton.
On 12 Ocotber Jayne Hickey and her son opened the door to two men at their Winton home who asked “Where’s your husband?” before pulling out a gun and firing three targeted shots at the pair.
Jayne was hit in both legs above the knee and Christian was shot in the left thigh.
The child and his 29-year-old mum remain in hospital.
One of the suspects is described as being 19-20 years old, of chunky build, with stubble and characteristically “slow” speech. The other man, who is thought to have carried out the shooting, is only described as being white and wearing a baseball cap.
No-one has been arrested in either case, and police said they faced “a wall of silence” from the community.
But the new Chief Constable added: “What I would stress is that there are hundreds of thousands of law-abiding people in Salford who are proud of their city
“Our approach is two-fold – you will have seen pictures of us dressed in riot gear going into houses and pulling out people associated with organised crime.
“We’ve arrested upwards of 50 people, recovered kilos of drugs and we’re getting ever closer to the people who are responsible for these shootings.
“But the key to unlocking this is gaining the confidence of the community.
“We know that worked in south Manchester, where the community said ‘enough is enough’ and worked alongside us, and we’ve seen a remarkable turnaround.”
The shooting of 15-year-old Manchester Academy schoolboy Jessie James in a Moss Side park in 2006 sparked a backlash against gang violence in the area.
He was cycling through Broadfield Park when he was shot him four times with a semi-automatic handgun. James was not involved in gang culture and was thought to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Despite the fact that Jessie’s killer has never been found, murders in Moss Side have seen a sharp decline.
Police hope the shooting of a child in what they believe is gang-related activity will be the turning point at which Salford itself says ‘enough is enough’.
“I said at the time, and I stand by this: how anyone can stand in a doorway, take aim at a little boy and pull the trigger is completely beyond me. It was a cowardly and horrific attack.
“We are working with Salford City Council, I speak to [City Mayor] Ian Stewart on a regular basis, working with communities is what will take the time.
“I want to reassure people that the relentless kicking-in of the doors of people involved with organised crime will go on.
“But going forward the community need to work with us, otherwise I fear the violence will just continue.”