Yard announces crackdown on criminal gangs

1,000 officers to combat the problem at a cost of £60m a year as gang membership hits 5,000

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The Independent Online

The number of gang members in London has spiralled to almost 5,000, Scotland Yard revealed yesterday as it announced a multimillion pound crackdown on the people responsible for a huge proportion of violent crime.

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As raids across the capital brought in almost 160 suspected gang members yesterday, the Metropolitan Police announced that 1,000 officers were going to be dedicated to combating the problem at a cost of more than £60m a year.

Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe, in his first major initiative in office, promised to "relentlessly pursue" the most violent members of gangs. "Our gang of seven and a half million has got to be bigger and better than the gangs who roam the streets of London. The hard work now starts," he said.

The police chief and London Mayor, Boris Johnson, were joined by Ingrid Adams, whose 15-year-old son Negus was murdered last year. "This problem doesn't just affect the poor, people from broken homes or gang members – it could happen to anyone," she said,

Police estimate that as many as 4,800 predominantly young men are involved in 435 gangs throughout London. Of these, 250 groups were deemed to be criminally active with 62 responsible for two-thirds of related violence.

Gangs, it was revealed, are responsible for a disproportionate amount of London's crime – half of all shootings, a fifth of stabbings and one in seven rapes. A quarter of aggravated burglaries are also gang related, as well as 22 per cent of serious violence and almost a fifth of muggings.

The vast majority of gang members are men aged between 18 and 24. While an increasing number of women are taking part, they are still just 5 per cent of those charged with related offences. However, women represent 20 per cent of the victims of gang crime, of whom 53 per cent are black and a fifth white.

Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley announced that the new unit –which includes officers working for Operation Trident, which investigates gun crime in the black community – would co-ordinate intelligence and operate a more "joined up consistent approach" across the capital.

While many gangs are territorial and stick to certain postcodes, others spread their tentacles wider. Task forces will be set up in 19 problem boroughs, co-ordinated by the central Trident command.

Yesterday, 1,300 police officers and staff were involved in raids across London, with 144 warrants resulting in 158 arrests. A kilo and half of heroin and crack cocaine was also seized, as well as thousands of pounds in cash and firearms.

Detective Chief Superintendent Stuart Cundy, head of the new unit, said Trident's remit had changed significantly since its creation, as the make up of gangs and their targets has dramatically altered. In 2010, the victims came from 53 different countries and a third were under the age of 19.

'I saw daughter collapse,' says victim's mother

The mother of a five-year-old girl paralysed in an alleged gang shooting has described the horror of the moment she saw her daughter collapse.

In a statement to the trial at the Old Bailey, Sharmila Kamales- waran said she saw Thusha crumble "as though her legs were going to give up on her" after being shot while she played inside a south London shop on 29 March last year.

Thomas Watson said he saw a man run into the shop, chased by three masked men, one of whom had a gun. Kazeem Kolawole, 19, Anthony McCalla, 19, and Nath- aniel Grant, 21, all deny causing grievous bodily harm with intent. They have also pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and pos- session of a firearm with intent.