The death of nine-year-old Olivia Pratt-Korbel has made headlines up and down the country.
Olivia was the third person in Liverpool to be shot dead in just eight days on 22 August after Sam Rimmer on 16 August and Ashley Dale on 21 August. A 36-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of her murder.
Here Sky News looks at Liverpool’s history of gang violence.
A member of the Croxteth Crew, also known as the Crocky Crew or Croxteth Young Guns, was behind the death of 11-year-old Rhys Jones in 2007.
Leading member Sean Mercer was just 16 when he shot Rhys dead in the car park of the Fir Tree Pub near Croxteth Park – almost 15 years to the day before Olivia Pratt-Korbel was killed.
Mercer, who was jailed for life with a minimum of 22 years in December 2008, had been told three members of the rival Strand Gang had been seen on Croxteth territory.
He went to the park and opened fire, hitting none of his intended targets, but killing the schoolboy, who was on his way home from football practice, instead.
In 2013 a further seven members of the Croxteth Crew were jailed for a total of 113 years for a string of offences, following years of drug dealing and tit-for-tat attacks.
Dr Robert Hesketh, a criminologist at Liverpool John Moores University, says young street gang members are more concerned with territory.
“These groups are willing to put their life on the line for a strip of land, which is sometimes just a litter-strewn field.”
The Croxteth Crew’s rivals were the Strand Gang, also referred to as the ‘Nogga Dogs’ after the area members lived in – Norris Green.
Strand was the name of shops in the area they often frequented.
The gand was most notorious in the early 2000s when young members referred to themselves as ‘Nogzy soldiers’.
In August 2006, leading Strand member Liam Smith, 19, was shot dead as he walked out of Altcourse Prison.
While visiting a friend he got into an argument with Croxteth member Ryan Lloyd, who was also serving time.
As Smith left the building, he was ambushed by a large group of Croxteth men before being shot in the head with a sawn-off shotgun.
Lloyd, 19, and two other teenagers Thomas Forshaw and Sean Farrell were convicted of his murder and jailed. Another member, Liam Duffy, was jailed for manslaughter.
Why does Liverpool have a history with gangs?
As a port, Liverpool is a historic hotspot for trafficking drugs and weapons, and as with most cities, for decades, high levels of poverty and deprivation have seen people turn to crime there.
Professor Simon Harding, director of the National Centre for Gang Research at the University of West London, tells Sky News: “Liverpool has a 100-year history of firearms.
“As a port city, the movement of weapons has been easy.
“There’s a big Irish diaspora. Liverpool has been supplying weapons to Irish Republicans since the War of Independence in 1919.
“You then saw that continue through the Troubles, so the routes for acquiring weapons are well established.”
Professor Harding adds that the city has a history of well-established criminal enterprises, often linked to specific families, as well as lower-level street gangs equally prevalent in other parts of the country.
“One key distinction here is between street gangs and organised crime networks.
“Street gangs you also see a lot of in London, they are boys, usually aged between 14 and 21, running around on scooters, dealing drugs.
“Organised crime networks work at a much higher level, involved in the international importation of drugs, weapons, racketeering, profiteering.
“Think of it like a retail operation – the wholesalers are the organised networks and the shop floor workers are the street gangs.”
Peter Williams, former Merseyside Police inspector and a lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University’s Centre for Advanced Policing Studies, argues the city’s reputation for gun gangs is “not totally warranted”.
In the past 13 months there hasn’t been a single fatal shooting in Merseyside, with the force recently rated ‘outstanding’ by inspectors for its disruption of organised crime.
Professor Harding explains that this has largely been down to a national investigation into the encrypted messaging service EncroChat.
This allowed police access to the inner workings of organised crime groups all over the world, with two thirds of UK-based messages about gun crime coming from Liverpool and the North West.
“That has had a seismic impact on the criminal networks,” he says. “There’s a void at the top, lots of recrimination and revenge, and a lot of suspicion – and that’s when the guns come out.”
This gang gets its name from Wavertree, an area southeast of Liverpool city centre, and ‘420’ the name given to unofficial international cannabis celebrations on 20 April each year.
Wavo 420 was previously led by James Lunt, who owned a handgun linked to 17 shootings across Merseyside and was jailed in October 2019 for a series of drug dealing and weapons offences.
Jonathan Humphries, crime reporter at the Liverpool Echo, tells Sky News: “Liverpool has got a culture of cannabis farms inside houses in residential areas.
“Some are more organised, where you have the whole property taken over, while others are a few plants in a room somewhere.”
He adds that when it comes to weapons, they tend to be traded between gangs.
“They’re often involved in multiple shootings, because unlike in some other countries they’re not in such great supply, so they’re traded between groups.”
Dr Hesketh says this can be part of the gangs’ business models.
“Some of them specialise in hiring guns, so other people don’t have to worry about getting rid of them, and that’s part of the way they make their money.”
County Lines drug gang Manc Joey was broken up by a series of arrests in 2020.
It was responsible for transporting hundreds of thousands of pounds’ worth of heroin and crack cocaine to Devon that year.
With most people confined to their homes during the COVID lockdown, it was easier for police to find the gang.
Leading member Anthony Kamara, 33, was arrested as part of the EncroChat crackdown and was found to have employed two teenagers as delivery boys, who the court ruled were modern slaves.
Seven other gang members were jailed at Exeter Crown Court in early 2021.
“County lines operations are essentially human trafficking,” Dr Hekseth says. “They see young and vulnerable people exploited.”
He adds that when it comes to drugs inside Liverpool, groups who operate in more residential areas where there are high levels of deprivation and addiction tend to deal in cannabis, crack cocaine and heroin.
Those closer to the city centre and the night-time economy, however, are more likely to be linked to cocaine.
This gang has been active in northern Liverpool, particularly the areas of Kirkdale, Everton and Walton, for decades.
It takes its name from Delamore Street in Kirkdale and has been known for robbing cannabis farms run by rival gangs and selling their drugs.
The Echo’s Mr Humphries says the Deli Mob is a name that still comes up regularly for causing trouble in the north of the city.
This year, EncroChat messages saw Jonathan Gordon, 33, jailed for life after they revealed he charged £6,000 for an acid attack he carried out on a man in nearby St Helens.
Before that, brothers Jake and Jamie Glenholmes were jailed for their involvement in Deli Mob criminality.
Jake was arrested after a police raid of his home uncovered a £32,000 cannabis farm.
And his younger brother was imprisoned after he led an armed raid of a fellow drug dealer’s house, which saw him demand £50,000 and knife him in the face.
East Side Boys
The East Side Boys is a drug gang based in the eastern suburb of Speke.
According to Mr Humphries of the Echo: “There has been a real sense of them damaging the community they were operating in.
“There were a lot of violent offences going in, causing turmoil for residents.”
They were led by brothers Jake and Callum Burrows, who would employ other people to intimidate those who crossed their territory.
After amassing a huge collection of weapons, police managed to find some of them buried in nearby woodland.
They led to the arrests and jailing of both men in 2019 – Jake Burrows for 25 years and Callum Burrows for 20 years.
Mr Humphries adds that although gangs often store weapons in safe houses, they can go a step further in trying to conceal them.
“Police in Merseyside have talked about a trend of gangs hiding weapons in innocent people’s gardens,” he says.
“In recent years people whose gardens bank on to a park or bit of public land will have gangs jump over the fence and they’ll find them wrapped in a bag in their shed or a bit of undergrowth.”
Kirkstone Riot Squad
This group takes its name from Kirkstone Road North in Litherland, to the north of the city in Sefton.
Its rivals are a gang called the Linacre Young Guns who operate throughout Bootle, Seaforth and Litherland.
Earlier this year brothers Michael and James Foy, aged 22 and 18, were both jailed for life after murdering an innocent man in a case of mistaken identity.
They believed the victim had thrown a brick through the window of their mother’s house and posted on social media minutes before they killed him saying: “Tell ye mar don’t use bricks”.
Scottie Road Crew
This gang was based in the Scotland Road, dockland area of Vauxhall.
Their rivals were the Langy Crew, based in nearby Langrove Street, which borders Everton Park.
Member James Moore was jailed at the age of 17 in 2010 after stabbing innocent 16-year-old Joseph Lappin to death outside a youth club in 2008.
The stabbing came after a dispute between the two gangs on the same day.
The Whitneys are a family of drug dealers from the Anfield area of Liverpool who sold crack cocaine and heroin on the city’s streets for decades.
Merseyside Police first went after them in the late 2000s as part of Operation Malton.
Led by Paul Whitney, the family and their associates lived lavish lifestyles off the back of drug money.
They ran a 24-hour ‘cash and carry’ drugs business, with Whitney’s mother Carol referred to as ‘the banker’.
In 2011, 13 members of the gang were jailed for a total of 82 years in prison.
Mr Humphries adds: “With the family groups, the activity is more on an ad hoc basis.
“They’re not armed gangs controlling territory, it’s much more economic – and it’s all about contacts at that level.”
The Fernhill Gang is another long-standing group on the city’s streets.
Originally taking their name from their base on Fernhill Road in Bootle, they started out there in the 1970s in competition with the Deli Mob from nearby Kirkdale.
Leader Liam Johnson was jailed at the age of 33 in 2013 after returning to the UK from abroad on a false passport.
Given 11 years for supplying cocaine throughout the city, second-in-command Kyle Shiels took over.
He and his brother Jamie, who had risen through the ranks over the years, saw the group’s home turf switch to the estate they grew up in Netherton.
They and their associates were jailed for a total of almost 100 years in 2017 for a string of drugs and weapons offences, which police said resulted in a noticeable drop in crime on their old estate.
Fernhill driver Jack Quinton was jailed in May 2020 at the age of 26 over a collection of weapons that dated back to when he was just 11.
Although not strictly part of a named gang, Curtis Warren is one of Liverpool’s most notorious drug barons.
The 59-year-old is set to be released from prison in November, and according to reports in The Times, could be subject to a serious crime prevention order, which would ban him from his home city altogether.
Having grown up in Toxteth, he started off as a bouncer in the 1980s before getting involved in armed robberies and international drug trafficking, which saw him linked to Pablo Escobar’s rivals the Cali Cartel.
He was jailed in 1996 and 2009 for multi-million pound drug smuggling operations and was given extra years for killing a fellow prisoner.
Mr Humphries says: “He was just a guy from Toxteth, but his greatest assets were his contacts.
“He knew exactly who could supply and distribute the drugs. And he was the first to go straight to South America to source them.
“He had his associates, but it wasn’t really a gang. He was very good at keeping things secret, storing information in his head and not leaving any trace.”