Met to target foreigners as crime grows

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The Independent Online
SCOTLAND YARD is stepping up surveillance of suspects in 16 foreign communities amid fears that organised criminals and gangs within these groups are becoming increasingly active and violent.

The "danger" list is based on police intelligence which indicates that a small number of gang members and violent criminals are having an impact on London.

Turkish heroin importers, Albanian pimps, Kosovan gunmen, Nigerian fraudsters and Chinese people-traffickers are among the gangsters. While the number of organised criminals is only a tiny proportion within each community, they are often prepared to use extreme violence, and they appear to be increasingly effective at organising serious crime.

Sir John Stevens, the out-going Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, in an interview with The Independent, warned that criminal elements within the communities had little respect for the police and wrongly considered them to be a "soft touch".

The Met has set up a south Asian intelligence cell to target several of the groups and are planning a number of operations against them over the coming months. The police are also working closely with immigrant community leaders to help tackle some of the causes of the lawlessness.

The 16 nationalities identified as having a significant element of criminality which affects the capital are: Albania, Algeria, Bangladesh, China, India, Jamaica, Kosova, Lithuania, Moldova, Nigeria, Pakistan, Romania, Russia, Somalia, Sri Lanka and Turkey.

A spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police said: "They have been identified as source countries where there are areas of risk to London." She added that intelligence on the various groups and individuals came from across the Met and included material from the force's Specialist Crime Directorate.

Traditional white gangs, however, are still the mainstay of organised crime, particularly involving drugs, armed robbery, tobacco and alcohol smuggling, protection and loan-sharking.

Sir John, speaking days before he stepped down as Metropolitan Commissioner, said: "We talk about these 16 new communities; Kosovans, Kurds, Turks and others. I think it is an area we really need to keep an eye on. [Criminals within] these communities need to understand our system of law. Some come from countries where there is not much respect for the police, for obvious good reason.

"They need to understand that we police this country by consent. We are a tolerant country, but we will not allow any form of criminality, especially organised crime to take place. I think that these people sometimes come from countries that think we are a soft touch - we prove otherwise.

"We have to be highly successful in our prosecution and detections. The other thing is to make sure they know that the style of policing in this country, which is unarmed, is totally different. It's about consent of the community. So it is a twin-edged approach." He added: "The communities have to understand we want to work with them, not against them."

Gun crime is beginning to spread within the Tamil, Sikh, Indian, Pakistani and Bengali communities and the murder rate has tripled over the past decade. Senior detectives want to prevent powerful, violent criminals emerging who would come to dominate Asian communities and provide dangerous role models. Only 10 murders involving south Asian victims were committed in 1993, but this had almost quadrupled to 38 by 2003. The number of kidnap cases rose from 90 in 1998 to 228 in 2003.

Among some of the most violent clashes in recent years have been those between rival Tamils from Sri Lanka. Ten people have been killed over the past four years, mostly victims of two groups, the Red Gang and the East Side Boys. In one killing, Asan Ratnasergam, 18, was stabbed with a sword in the chest as he sat with two friends in a red Alfa Romeo coupe.

Armed police were deployed in north London in November 2002 after a big rise of gun crime and violence involving Turkish gangs. The Met was spurred into action when a cleaner, Alisan Dogan, 43, was murdered after being caught in the crossfire between Turkish gangs during a gun battle in the busy shopping area of Green Lanes, Haringey.