Shootings at record levels as teenagers turn to guns

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The Independent Online

A record number of gun killings and shootings in London has prompted the police to deploy extra officers on the streets.

A record number of gun killings and shootings in London has prompted the police to deploy extra officers on the streets.

London saw a fourfold increase in shootings last month, a record high of 49, including three deaths. This compares with 12 shootings in April last year.

Scotland Yard said it was very concerned about the rise, and in the past few weeks has increased the number of operations against suspected gunmen. They are also carrying out more stop and searches in boroughs where most of the serious firearms incidents are taking place.

Police believe the rise in gun crimes is due, in part, to a spate of shootings involving teenagers as young as 16, often to resolve "trivial" disputes, and an escalation in a bloody feud between two rival drug gangs.

The figures come as gun crime has risen nationally by 10 per cent in the past year. The growing national problem of gun crime was highlighted in March by Steve Green, the Chief Constable of Nottinghamshire, who claimed his force was in crisis and overwhelmed by the rising murder rate.

In London, most of the shootings last month were between members of the black community - often involving disputes between gangs - with 35 incidents. This included two murders, and 15 injuries. Shootings other than black-on-black incidents accounted for 13 offences, with eight resulting in injury. In a separate incident police shot dead an armed man in the back of a car during a planned arrest. Forty-nine shootings is a record for one month. It was up from 27 in March.

The Metropolitan Police has established special units, called Operation Trident and Operation Trafalgar, to tackle gun crime.

A police spokeswoman said: "The recent rise in Trident and Trafalgar-related shootings is a cause for considerable concern within the service.

"In response, the [Met] has put in place a range of measures including providing the two units with extra resources, increasing intelligence-led operational activity and high visibility stop and search operations in the boroughs most affected in order to tackle the gunmen."

In the past year there have been 280 separate incidents in London when a gun has been fired.

But police stress that overall gun crime in London is falling. There was an 8 per cent drop from 3,966 offences to 3,653 firearms crimes - which include reported sightings of guns and air weapons - in the year ending April this year, compared with the same period in 2003-04.

There are fears that an upsurge in shootings in London will be repeated around the country. Firearms offences in Britain are at a record high with 10,590 in the year to June 2004. Although the number of people shot dead dropped from 82 to 70 in the same period, a further 430 incidents involved serious injuries.

In London, the number of murders investigated by Operation Trident rose from 11 in the nine months to April 2004 to 16 the following year.

Among those killed last month was Andre Linton, 22, who was shot in his car in Wood Green, north London. A gang of black youths was seen running away.

Azelle Rodney, 24, a suspected drug dealer, was shot dead in Edgware, north London, by armed police, who say he was reaching for a weapon.

Daniel Quilliam, 22, was found dead in his car in a car park in Catford, south-east London. He died from a single gunshot wound to the neck. Initial reports suggest there had been an argument in flats near by.

Graeme McLagan, whose new book, Guns and Gangs, investigates black gun crime in Britain, said: "This sudden rise in shootings reflects the chaotic and unpredictable nature of black gun crime. It is incredibly hard for the police to predict when, and under what circumstances, black gunmen will use their firearms.

"Someone can be shot dead for something as trivial as a slight at a concert, or a drugs deal gone wrong, either way it can be carried out incredibly quickly."

The deadly menace

Sunday 3 April

Charles Osei-Bonsu, 17, hit with a single shot in a drive-by shooting on the Broadwater Farm estate in Tottenham, north London. Tottenham MP David Lammy, addressing a nearby meeting, administers first aid. Police believe the teenager was the victim of mistaken identity.

Monday 11 April

City "superwoman" Nicola Horlick is attacked at gunpoint by two muggers outside her home in Knightsbridge, west London. She resists and is pistol-whipped.

Tuesday 12 April

Daniel Quilliam, 22, was found shot dead in his car in Catford, south-east London. Reports suggest there was an argument in a block of flats near by.

Saturday 16 April

A handgun is brandished at the Prince's Trust urban music festival at Earl's Court, west London.

Wednesday 20 April

A masked teenage gunman shoots a shopkeeper in the leg in Camberwell, south London, and demands cash, but is held until police arrive at the scene.

Friday 22 April

Police are called to the Broadwater Farm estate in Tottenham to find a car with bullet holes in the windscreen. A man later checks himself into hospital with a gunshot wound in his leg.

Tuesday 26 April

A man is shot at close range on his doorstep in Lambeth, south London, and taken to hospital with stomach wounds.

Thursday 28 April

A husband and wife are robbed at gunpoint by an armed gang of five men in their Brixton home, south London. The man is pistol-whipped for trying to look at the attackers.

Saturday 30 April

Four shootings in six hours. Andre Linton, 22, is shot dead in his car in Wood Green, north London. Believed to be victim of escalation of violence between two groups of youths in Haringey.

Azelle Rodney, 24, a suspected drug dealer, is shot dead in Edgware by armed police, who say he was reaching for a weapon.

James Buckland, 21, is shot in a nightclub in Wimbledon, south-west London. A man, 30, is shot and wounded at point blank range by armed muggers who try to steal his necklace in Brixton, south London.