A feud between two crime gangs is behind a gun war in Cheetham Hill.

Police are linking six incidents in the district - five shootings and a street fight in which machetes were brandished.

A senior officer says she fears innocent people could be caught in the cross fire as she condemned those responsible as 'reckless'.

The violence has included a day-time drive-by shooting, in which two men were blasted in the leg; shots being fired in a convenience store; and car windscreens being blasted.

GMP has launched Operation Heamus to tackle the dispute after a series of incidents since the beginning of September.

Children's services staff are also involved. It is hoped staff will be able to intervene and guide teenagers involved in the violence - and those on the periphery.

Four men have been arrested in connection with the investigation - three on suspicion of robbery and one in connection with a shooting in Spender Avenue. All have been released under investigation.

Police at the scene after shots were fired on Cheetham Hill Road

Supt Rebecca Boyce, of GMP's City Division, said: "We strongly believe that this is an ongoing dispute between two specific local crime groups. We are unclear as to what has caused this dispute and what is the catalyst for this recent firearms discharges.

"We would urge any member of the public who is aware of what is going on between these crime groups and has information to come forward.

"We are going through an evaluation process to see whether the groups involved meet the threshold for organised crime. We do believe there is a younger element to each of these two groups.

"We believe there individuals involved who are in their late teens to mid twenties.

"There is a difference between people involved in these crime groups and these incidents."

 

Tests are ongoing to establish the type of weapons used.

"We are concerned that there is a danger to the public because of the time of the day and the locations where they are taking place," Supt Boyce added.

Forensics specialists on Cheetham Hill Road

"There has been concern amongst local business owners. We do not have any specific information to say they are at risk.

"This is between crime groups, there is no information of a wider threat to the community."

One of the shootings was at 2.30pm on Cheetham Hill Road last Friday (November 15) near a parade of shops and a busy indoor market.

A gunman in a Mercedes drove up to a group of youths on the street and opened fire, hitting two of them. The victims - aged 18 and 20 - were hit in the lower leg and ankle.

The grey A Class Mercedes was later found abandoned on Claude Street in Crumpsall.

Claude Street

Supt Boyce said she feared innocent members of the public could be injured if the level of firearms use contined.

"I would appeal to those involved to cease this and those who know who is involved to come forward with information as we are very concerned of the risk to members of the public," she added.

Referring to last Friday's shooting, she said: "The actions of those involved were reckless, without consideration for anybody else other than themselves. It is that that really concerns us. There is a risk to members of the public and that is why we are urgently asking for information."

She added: "We have a dedicated investigation team that will be looking at all of these incidents. We have also instigated a multi agency approach  to make sure there are interventions with families who we know are involved.

The police scene on Oakfield Street in Cheetham Hill

"So ourselves, children's services, youth justice, local youth clubs, are working together. We also have high visibility patrolling at different times of the day until the early hours.

"We are looking at long term intervention work with the younger element of these two crime groups. This supportive intervention to give them other opportunities.

The catalogue of incidents:

September 1: Spender Avenue - windscreen of Toyota blasted

The scene after a car was shot at on Spender Avenue

A section of Spender Avenue, at the junction with Huxley Avenue, was sealed off following the incident.

Officers were called just after 6.30pm. A Toyota was left with a shattered back window.

September 21: Downgate Walk - member of public reports firearms discharge

Armed officers raced to the scene on Downgate Walk at around 4.20pm.

An area was cordoned off as police searched for evidence.

One witness said they heard two shots being fired.

October 14: Elmfield Street - machete fight between two groups

Elmfield Street

Reports of two groups of men fighting with blades - said to be machetes. 

October 20: Oakfield Street - car windscreen blasted

Gun shots were fired through the back windscreen of a car.

A number of casings were found on the floor.

Nobody was hurt. Oakfield Street was sealed at around 9pm.

Police on Oakfield Street

Forensic and TAU officers were later seen combing the area for clues.

They focused their attention on a silver car parked outside a house.

Neighbours were told to use the rear door of their homes when they needed to leave the street so they did not disturb the investigation.

November 15: Cheetham Hill Road - two men shot in legs in drive-by shooting

Forensics specialists on Cheetham Hill Road

Two men were seriously injured in a suspected drive-by in broad daylight at around 2.30pm.

Police were seen combing the area in front of the bus stop near the junction with Humphrey Street.

November 18 - Cheetham Hill Road two shots fired into the floor inside Premier Convenience store

Officers searching Cheetham Hill Road

A gunman walked into a newsagent's on Cheetham Hill Road at around 5.20pm and fired two shots while a staff member was inside.

Witnesses say they then saw a young man, said to be in his late teens, with his face covered running away.

Anyone with any information is asked to call police on 0161 856 1146; or Crimestoppers, anonymously on 0800 555 111.