A SHOCKING picture of violent crime and the drug underworld in Bolton has been uncovered in a new book about street gangs.

The novel, which is based on the author’s time in prison and interviews with gang members, reports gang activity at all levels, from fighting between “postcode gangs” across the borough to rival drug cartels battling for control of the lucrative Bolton market.

Writer Steve Hackman — not his real name — claims that CS gas sprays and guns are slowly replacing knives as the weapon of choice for the town’s criminals.

The book starts with the history of Bolton gangs in the 1970s and 1980s — the Highfield Boot Boys, the Green Lane Mob, Mongy’s Cuckoo Boys, the Tonge Moor Slashers and the Billy Whiz Fan Club — before examining more recent gangs such as the Farnworth Mafia, The Rawson Street Gang, the New Bury Cavemen, the Warriors, the Farnworth Arcaders, the Highfield Mob and the Moses Gate Mob.

One ex-gang member, known as Dougie, says the gang problem in Bolton is getting worse and that the prison system is to blame because it is too soft.

He said: “Back in the day, we’d always be up for a scrap but we had respect. We didn’t pick on innocent people.

“The gangs of today don’t have any respect whatsoever.

They’re twice as bad as they were in the past and things are going from bad to worse.”

The book also charts the career of Billy Webb, a ruthless drug lord from Bolton whose gang, The Great Lever Mafia, dished out brutal punishments to anyone who opposed them.

He was assassinated as he lay in bed with his girlfriend in a flat in Ashton-in-Makerfield in 2001.

In the book, an ex-gang member known as Mini said: “Nowadays there aren’t really any white dealers left at the top. Billy and his lot were the last of their kind.

“There are still a lot of white dealers about, but the Asians are definitely the top lads.”

Mr Hackman wrote the book after a spell in prison for selling ecstasy while he was a student in Leeds. The book, called Young Guns: Inside the Violent World of Britain’s Street Gangs, deals with gangs across the country, but inlcudes a chapter on Bolton.

Mr Hackman said he wrote the book because he was surprised about the level of gang crime in Britain and he wanted more people to know about it.

He said: “You imagine it’s only in places like Birmingham, Manchester and London, but when I was in prison I regularly heard people from fairly mundane places talking about guns and gangs.

“The thing I would say about Bolton is that there’s a lot of people selling drugs — there’s a big drug culture, with lots of people on crack and heroin, and people travel from all over the country to sell it in Bolton.”

Supt John Lyons, head of operations for police in Bolton, said drug dealing and anti-social behaviour were two of the main issues highlighted by residents and police worked closely with the community to identify where problems exist and target those responsible.

He said: “In the past six months, our neighbourhood drugs unit has seized more than £220,000 worth of drugs from dealers, with 69 arrests for mainly drug or firearm related offences.

“And over the past 18 months, police seized £592,000 worth of assets from criminals, along with more than £78,000 in cash.

“We will continue to crack down on these offenders to get them off our streets and hope that our residents in the borough will continue to work closely with us to do so.”

● Young Guns: Inside the Violent World of Britain’s Street Gangs is out now and is available from most bookshops, priced £7.99.