Community leaders said people may be now "looking over their shoulders" in Lozells, but insisted community cohesion would not disintegrate into reruns of the disturbances seen last year.

Derek Webley, Bishop of the New Testament Church of God on Lozells Road, and vice chairman of West Midlands Police Authority, was speaking after Wednesday's shooting.

About 300 people were attending a service at the church a couple of hundred yards from where the shooting took place at about 8.40pm.

Bishop Webley warned that "fear and concern" was rising in the area, and a better look had to be taken at the underlying issues which led to the violence.

"Whenever events like this happen in a community, they leave a shadow hanging over the community for quite a while. Particularly in Lozells and neighbouring districts where there have been shootings, while not on the same scale of previous years, it doesn't take long to resurrect those feelings of concern and fear. There's that feeling that we've been here before.

"I see a small group operating in a way that is not helpful to Lozells or Birmingham, or the West Midlands, but in spite of this people are still going about doing their business as normal. We still need to eat and live, but we may do so occasionally looking over our shoulder – that comes with living here at this moment."

He said the undercurrent of unrest stemmed from feelings that some sections of the community were being viewed negatively.

"There is the feeling from some sections of the black community that they are always seen as the perpetrators when at times they are the victims. Other areas of the community may view it from another perspective."

But Bishop Webley said the situation in Lozells was far from 'ghettoisation' and there was a lot of resilience in the area.

"One cannot deny those incidents have occurred and there are a challenging set of circumstances here, but disintegration of communities, no way.

"What has to be recognised is that where guns are used, all the hard work that goes into building a cohesive community takes a setback. I do believe that the foundations built between communities and private sector and the police, and the hard work behind the scenes gives us a ray of hope, and the wider escalation has not occurred."

Curtis Tingaling, who runs a drop-in centre for young Afro-Caribbeans called Tingaling's, said he feared further violence in the area. To make a long term difference, he said, Government and local authorities had to show more committment to initiatives such as his own.

"This place is going to be like Beirut," he said. "How many shootings on the Lozells Road and Villa Road are there going to be? There must have been ten killings in the last five years.

"The hard-core problem is lack of income and lack of real jobs and people are becoming victims because of the postcode they live in."

He also wanted to see a more visible police presence in Lozells.

"There's been hardly any police presence since the disturbances; as far as they are concerned we can fight each other," he said. "People are getting drawn into it. It is peer pressure; there's no sense in it. It's just really sad.

"It is only a fraction of young people who are doing this. The majority of people are not walking round with guns in Handsworth."

During the course of the last year there has been an average of 40 firearms offences, including possession or/and use of, every month in the Birmingham area.

West Midlands Police has recorded a total of 487 incidents, the peak being in January with 52. In September, the last available figures released by the force, there were 33 – the second lowest in the course of the last 12 months.

Oct 2005…48 offences
Jan 2006…52

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