May 21, 2024

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The History of Manchester’s Gang Culture and 21st Century Reform

The city of Manchester’s affiliation with gangs goes back to the late 1880s with leagues of young people who were called “scuttlers,” aptly named because of their predisposition for scuttling, or fighting. These Victorian era gangs were ruthless in protecting their turf, which often consisted of a chosen favourite music hall, and would attack any adversary that entered. With relentless violence, their goal was to be known as the most ruthless gang of Manchester and they went to great lengths to accomplish this, sometimes walking as far as 8 kilometres just to brawl with a rival gang. Sometimes their weapons were crude, such as sharpened belt buckles; but often they preferred knives and the occasional firearm. Unfortunately, while their offences were serious, judges were often far too lenient with short sentences, and the scuttlers would soon return to the streets and the excitement of battle.

While the original scuttlers of Manchester had all but disappeared by the advent of the 20th century, Manchester saw a new breed of gang violence in the 1970’s and 80’s. Called the “black mafia” by the police, a new generation of Manchester youth threatened the city’s residents with their drug trade. Narcotics became extremely profitable and violence increased as gangs of all colour and ethnicities vied for territories. Social deprivation meant earning an honest income was next to impossible, so youths in the areas of Cheetham Hill, Salford and Moss Side turned to the drug trade as a means of income. The Cheetham Hill Gang and the Gooch Close Gang in Moss Side fought to gain control of Manchester city centre in a parallel narcotics and firearm trade, earning the city the nicknames of ‘Gunchester’ and “Gangchester.” In Salford, gangs of youths ran wild like feral dogs, slashing tires, breaking windows and harassing locals as a means to gain recognition and continue their reign of terror on the city.

The 21st century has seen a decline in violence, due in part to the leaders of the Gooch Gang and 9 other members being sent to prison in 2007, where some sources site a 92% decrease in gun related crimes in Manchester. This coupled with more stringent sentences for all gang members and a call for social reform has resulted in improved commerce for the city of Manchester. With one of the largest urban populations in England, citizens are fighting a battle to regain the streets, pubs, clubs, and hotels in Manchester. The city is a hub for the arts, media and education and is regarded as the number one place in the country to base a business, due to its fast growing economy. With the largest Chamber of Commerce in England, Manchester hotels and restaurants are realizing business opportunities which surpass those in other urban areas.