By Jim Kouri
Besides anti-terrorism operations by Scotland Yard and MI5 to make London safer for the anticipated throngs of 2012 Olympic Games athletes staff and spectators, the Yard is also attempting to prevent the city from being overrun by street gangs. This month scores of suspected gang members were targeted in a series of coordinated operations as part of a major crack down on by the Metropolitan Police Service, according to the Home Office this week.
The operation was spearheaded by a newly formed Trident Gang Crime Command. It’s seen as the beginning of a step change in how the MPS tackles gang crime in the capital and forms a key part of the Met Commissioner’s total war on crime.
Hundreds of police officers took part in this month’s operation, which saw suspected gang members being pursued for a series of crimes, including assault, robbery and drugs supply in a refreshed approach to help stop young people getting killed or seriously injured.
One thousand officers are specifically dedicated to tackling gang crime in London with the creation of a central Trident Gang Crime Command as well as the introduction of local task forces across London. The new command will retain responsibility for the prevention and investigation of shootings, but will now work more closely with boroughs to proactively tackle gang crime, according to Scotland Yard officials.
The new command will be enhanced with additional specialist resources from the MPS, including Operation Connect and the Serious and Organized Crime Command (SCD7). It will take responsibility for real time monitoring of gang activity across London and work with new ‘Grip and Pace’ centers to coordinate and task corporate resources, both overt and covert, quickly at the relevant places.
Nineteen priority boroughs will have dedicated gang crime task forces to deal with local gang crime, and will work with their partners to implement diversion and prevention activities. Other boroughs and specialist commands will also be required to have more of a focus on gang crime, according to MPS officials.
The new approach builds on the good work already seen in the MPS and ensures all the expertise and skills in the service are brought together and used in a more targeted and effective way. It will see better and more consistent use of intelligence to identify and prioritize the most harmful gangs and gang members, while spotting young people on the periphery who can be referred to other agencies for help in keeping away from crime.
MPS Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe said: “This is a step change in how we tackle gang crime in London. It will allow us to identify and relentlessly pursue the most harmful gangs and gang members. It will help us identify young people on the periphery of gangs and work with partners to divert them away.
“Although we are now nearly doubling the number of officers dedicated to tackling gang crime, the police can not do this alone. It is vital we work with the public, local authorities, charities and other agencies to prevent young people from joining gangs in the first place.”
According to MPS intelligence systems there are an estimated 250 active criminal gangs in London, comprising of about 4,800 people. Of these gangs 62 are considered as high harm and commit two thirds of all gang-related crime.
The gangs range from organized criminal networks involved in Class A drugs supply and firearms, to street-based gangs involved in violence and personal robbery. This relatively small number of people is responsible for approximately 22% of serious violence, 17% of robbery, 50% of shootings and 14% of rape in London.
Gangs exist in and around all parts of the capital but are more prevalent in about 19 London boroughs. They are made up of mainly young people, aged between 18 and 24 years, but officers have seen even younger children involved in or on the periphery of gangs, according to MPS officials.