Dawn raids mark start of crackdown

A major police war on rising robbery and burglary rates was launched today.

Dawn raids across London marked the start of one of the biggest covert and overt crackdowns in Scotland Yard's history.

Over the past year in London, domestic burglary has soared by 14% and robberies have gone up by 11%.

More than 1,500 officers have been drafted in for a sustained campaign to increase patrols and intelligence-led interventions.

The operation began with raids - observed by London Mayor Boris Johnson - at suspected crack houses which police believe were fuelling local crime in Tottenham, north London.

A police team made up of Territorial Support Group officers and sniffer dogs swooped first on the home of Roger Scott, 48.

After the door of his flat on Taylor Close was smashed open, Scott expressed his shock at seeing the familiar figure of Mr Johnson in his doorway.

He screamed at the mayor: "What the f*** are you doing here?"

Speaking to reporters, Mr Johnson said he had been invited to join the raids and admitted there was an "issue" with rising burglary and robbery rates.

He said the police crackdown would help give people a "greater sense of security".

Scotland Yard said the campaign - known as Operation Target - will lead to "significant, long term reductions".

Assistant Commissioner Ian McPherson, head of territorial policing, said: "Operation Target is to be the largest and sustained crackdown against crimes such as robbery, burglary and violence ever conducted by the Metropolitan Police.

"While robbery and burglary are still relatively low in comparison to previous years we are determined to cut these offences further."

Mr Johnson blamed the drugs trade for fuelling increases in burglary and robbery rates as he pointed to an overall 0.5% fall in recorded crime in the capital.

Mr Johnson added: "It's the drugs trade that fuels the robberies that degrade the quality of life for people in London.

"If we can clamp down on drugs we can win the fight against robbery."

After a second raid was carried out in nearby William Street, Mr Johnson sparked laughter amongst officers by picking up an "enforcer" - the heavy tool police use to break through doors.

The mayor followed officers in to the properties but did not choose to wear protective clothing.

Specialist teams including the flying squad, traffic and mounted branch will support borough policing units to deliver the operation over the coming months.

Officers have singled out a number of target areas which constitute nearly a third of all London's street robberies and most serious violence.

Commander Maxine de Brunner, who is leading the operation, added: "Target is a long-term drive to reduce crime and keep it down. The operation is due to last for at least six months and will see the relentless deployment of our specialist assets, resources, tactics and skills in areas which suffer disproportionate levels of crime and anti-social behaviour."