Girls against guns Article icon


Good news! Gun crime in Greater Manchester fell by a quarter over the course of 2015, the result of work the police have done to work with communities and partner organisations to raise awareness of firearm criminality.

Greater Manchester Police launched a number of campaigns to combat gun-crime issues, including becoming one of four forces, including Cheshire, Lancashire and Merseyside, to stage a firearms amnesty, in which more than 220 weapons were handed in to the force over the course of two weeks in April.

Such success has only spurred the police force on further. Its latest campaign Girls Against Guns, which launched in October, doesn’t necessarily target the gun-owners themselves, but rather the women closest to them.

‘We wanted to target those closest to gang members, based on a gap in our intelligence,’ says Amanda Coleman, head of corporate communications at Greater Manchester Police. ‘We realised women hold the key.’

An image was created, both for social media and posters that were distributed across the Greater Manchester area, of accessories commonly found in women’s handbag, which were arranged together to take the shape of a gun. ‘Ladies, carrying a secret?’, the poster asks. ‘Don’t become an accessory to their crime.’

‘Women are carrying this secret around with them at all times and so we started thinking What else do women carry?’ explains Danielle Young, senior public relations officer at Greater Manchester Police, who helmed the campaign. ‘We arranged make up items to portray a gun. We avoided using anything too pink, we wanted to make it more neutral. We included tampons and lighters.

‘We had a specific audience that we needed to target in a memorable way. We knew that there might be some backlash [regarding gender stereotyping] but we were prepared to accept that feedback.’

A teaser campaign on social media was created, in which followers had to guess what was hidden inside the bag. Using a GIF, accessories within the bag slowly formed the gun-shape which became the final image of the campaign.

‘Our in-house designers photographed every stage [of the arrangement] – we were very conscious that we wanted to do a GIF.’

The initial plan was for the teasers to run longer, but after a surprising amount of feedback, Coleman and Young brought the campaign forward.

‘Our chief constable didn’t know what the teasers meant,’ says Young. ‘It was really good – it showed that people were intrigued. All our branches were briefed to push all of these messages out over Twitter. Dedicated telephone numbers were only published in those small communities.’

The campaign also had the support of Pat Erdmann, the mother of Lee Erdmann, who was shot and killed outside a pub in 2011.

‘It was a media relations campaign, we used interviews and statistics in order to appeal to mothers,’ says Young. ‘We created posters, digital advertising to target a wider community.

‘It was made on a shoestring using in-house resources. That’s why it attracted people’s attention. We wanted to create something that would stick in people’s minds and not bleed into the everyday.’