Hundreds gather to hit back at gangs 'terrorising' Manchester suburb

Hundreds of people gathered in Blackley this afternoon to protest at a spike in crime, much of it targeted at children. The ‘protect our children’ campaign was launched after what residents see as a rise in serious crime in the area, culminating in a gang of teenage thugs armed with a handgun and a machete mugging children of their phones as they made their way home from school. One boy, 14, was taken to hospital after being pistol-whipped.

The shocking attack, and other crimes against kids, prompted a band of mothers to organise a protest on Victoria Avenue in Blackley on Saturday afternoon. Many said they were so fearful they wouldn’t let their children leave home.

Residents gathered in Victoria Avenue

One of the organisers, mother-of-four Laura Stafford, 37, said: “I take the kids to school and then pick them up. How can you do anything else?

It’s scary. I’m scared for the kids. Gangs are going around terrorising the local area.

It’s happening in broad daylight. “There’s a really good community in Blackley. There’s more good than bad.

People have got to report something when they see something suspicious.” Apart from crime committed against children, she said car crime, burglary and dog theft – often while the owners were walking their beloved pets – were also rife.

Hundreds gather to hit back at gangs 'terrorising' Manchester suburbThe head wound caused to a 14-year-old school boy after he was pistol-whipped by a gang armed with a machete and gun in Blackley

A fortnight ago, car thieves stole a VW camper van by simply driving it onto a flatbed truck, she said. Fellow organiser Sian Barker, 30, a mother-of-three, said she was fearful of allowing her kids outside.

“They don’t go out. If they do, I’m constantly ringing them every five minutes. It’s just really worrying.

We have to do something. Enough is enough,” she said. “It’s not like it was when I was a kid.

There’s nowhere for the kids to go and they are just causing trouble,” added Sian, who called for more police out on patrol and facilities for youngsters. As she spoke, behind her is an old youth club which has not been used for years and which is poised to be demolished to make way for housing. The nearest operating youth club is in Harpurhey.

Blackley’s Plant Hill police station was closed, as were other stations, in 2014 to save money. The closest police station is at Central Park in Newton Heath.

Hundreds gather to hit back at gangs 'terrorising' Manchester suburbPolice were also at the protest

Alex Appleby, 40, a mother-of-four, called for more police patrols and said: “I’m frightened of them walking to school on their own. It’s frightening.

They are picking on vulnerable, young children. They have weapons.” She went on: “I’ve lived here all my life.

When I was a kid I played out from dawn ’til dusk. I only went home when I wanted feeding. My mum always knew where I was and knew I was safe.

Now, you just don’t know what people are capable of. It’s been happening for years but it’s got worse in lockdown.” She said she now kept her children within a few yards of her home.

Blackley and Broughton MP Graham Stringer, who came to speak to the residents, told the M.E.N: “It’s a good turnout from a community that cares. The police have responded by putting on extra resources to try and catch the young men who did these attacks. I’m hoping they will be successful.

Sign up to the free MEN email newsletter

Hundreds gather to hit back at gangs 'terrorising' Manchester suburb

Get the latest updates from across Greater Manchester direct to your inbox with the free MEN newsletter

You can sign up very simply by following the instructions here “They have told me they have got two serious lines of enquiry.” He also backed calls for more police patrols in the area: “I’ve never met a constituent who doesn’t want to see more police on the beat.”

Higher Blackley councillor Shelley Lanchbury was challenged by one local resident after saying she didn’t believe the problem was worse now than previously. The resident, who declined to be named, described how drug dealing took place openly and that crime in Blackley was ‘disgusting’, saying the area needed more police while the council should ‘open something for the kids’. The councillor told the resident there were no buildings the council could use in the area and the town hall could fund a new youth club if it had the resources.

Local councillors and Mr Stringer have been assured by GMP patrols have been stepped up in the area.