‘Routine’ armed police units for London streets

 The increase is being driven by a Turkish gang war, which has resulted in three firearms murders since March as two groups, the Tottenham Boys and the Bombacilar, fight for suprem-acy. In South London there has been a rise in teenage gang shootings.

Police_632864a TIMESONLINE… The prospect of an armed police service moved a step closer yesterday when Scotland Yard announced the formation of a new firearms unit that will routinely patrol gun crime hotspots in London.

The team is drawn from the CO19, the Metropolitan Police specialist firearms unit, members of which shot dead Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell Tube station after mistaking him for a suicide bomber in 2005.

The armed patrols are being deployed after a dramatic rise in gun crime. They will target key areas in North London, where Turkish gangs are engaged in a bloody turf war, and south of the Thames, where gangland shooting incidents have soared.

The C019 Proactive Unit will walk estates while some officers will use motorbikes to provide the capability for high-speed pursuit.

But the announcement has created a political row, with demands for Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, to convene an emergency meeting of the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA).

It is understood that Mr Johnson, who is also the MPA chairman, was not consulted by senior police commanders. The Times understands that Sir Paul Stephenson, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, was also not fully briefed on the move, which was taken at assistant commissioner level.

Neither Sir Paul nor Tim Godwin, the deputy commissioner, were at Scotland Yard to respond to the news, which was revealed in Police Review magazine.

Joanne McCartney, Labour’s policing spokeswoman on the London Assembly, said: “We want fewer guns on the streets, not more, and people to feel safe in their community — not scared of those who are supposed to protect them. There has been no debate, no consultation and apparently no consideration to the strong opposition that exists to arming the police.” Joanne McCarty thinks the police tactic of yelling “STOP. Or I shall yell stop again” should continue.

Yasmin Khan, of the Justice4Jean campaign, said: “This is very disconcerting and worrying and it makes me feel more threatened because we know what the consequences can be of having armed police on the streets.”

Scotland Yard said that the armed patrols began in June, on a trial basis, with a team of 21 officers. That number is set to double next month.

While national crime figures recorded a 5 per cent drop in firearms offences, and gun crime is down by as much as 27 per cent on Merseyside, London has experienced a 17 per cent rise from 1,484 to 1,737 offences in the 12 months to September.

The increase is being driven by a Turkish gang war, which has resulted in three firearms murders since March as two groups, the Tottenham Boys and the Bombacilar, fight for suprem-acy. In South London there has been a rise in teenage gang shootings.

The deployment of armed patrols to deal with gun gangs is a significant shift in emphasis, reminiscent of policing in Northern Ireland rather than anywhere else in Britain. “CO19 has traditionally provided a response to gun crime but this new unit sees a move towards a more proactive approach to deal with weapons and people linked to violence on our streets,” said Chief Superintendent Andy Tarrant, of CO19.

Inspector Derek Carroll, who heads the first patrol unit, said: “People in and around London will be used to seeing armed officers but this is taking it away from the main roads to where these gangs are hanging around.”

The unit’s scope ranges from community reassurance to “estate sweeps” and it has already recovered a number of weapons, including two rifles hidden in a garage in Brixton and a loaded handgun on a roof in North London.

Peter Smyth, the chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, welcomed the move: “If these areas are where the gun crime is, then that is where the armed police should be.”

But one officer said: “The worry is that more and more officers will be expected to carry firearms and that is not what the average officer wants.”

Last night a spokesman for Mr Johnson said that the mayor had sought reassurance from Sir Paul over armed deployments. He said: “The mayor has been reassured that there is no intention of using armed police in the routine manner suggested. Armed police have a role but that should be the exception, not the norm.”

Scotland Yard sources said that the force had no intention of departing wholesale from its unarmed tradition.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*