Gangs and weapons on the rise on London streets, front line police team warns

'We are seeing more and more groups of youths going around and congregating at the hotspots. We will stop them, we have been utilising that power – but we have to use it proportionally'

Daniel Khalili-Tari
Sunday 08 April 2018 09:10
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A police team on the front-line of London's knife crime battle have been finding more gangs weapons on the capital's streets, amid a series of killings which have left over 50 people dead already this year.

The Metropolitan Police's Territorial Support Group (TSG) have been on hand throughout the week, after several knife attacks occurred within London, with seven teenagers being injured in stabbings on Friday alone.

This year has seen a 21 per cent increase in knife crime, marking the highest figures since 2011.

Sergeant Paul Perversi said stop-and-search efforts on members of the public had been increasingly uncovering weapons, while social media was causing disputes to quickly escalate into violence and was allowing people to challenge officers during stop-and-searches.

“With what’s happening in the last week, we are seeing more and more groups of youths going around and congregating at the hotspots," he said. "We will stop them, we have been utilising that power – but we have to use it proportionally.

“Personally on our beat we are finding more weapons. That could be to do with demographics or the area. Between us all we have come across victims of knife crime – it is horrendous when you see a victim with a knife wound, it makes you think.”

Commenting on the sharp rise in knife crime, he added: “They put a video on YouTube and then they get stabbed.”

But despite the surging levels of violence, the unit does not let statistics distort its judgment on who to search, the sergeant claimed.

“We are not a figure-run sort of department,” he said.

The popularity of smartphones and social media has “massively” encouraged more people to challenge officers during stop-and-searches, he said. Many choose to stop and film the process before uploading it online.

The tactic is a key component of the unit's work. However, it has received severe criticism for disproportionately targeting ethnic minority groups and poorer areas.

“If you stop two people out of 10, you will have five people who get their phone out. Then you go and search on YouTube and I’m there.”

Earlier this week, the Labour MP for Tottenham, David Lammy, accused Theresa May and her home secretary, Amber Rudd, of attempting to evade responsibility after the number of killings in London this year exceeded 50. Mr Lammy made the comments in the wake of a stabbing on Wednesday evening, which left 18-year-old, Israel Ogunsola, dead.

On Thursday he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: "What we’re seeing today is the worst I’ve ever seen it. There are parents, friends, families, schools traumatised and grieving. And there is absolutely no sign at the moment of reduction in the violence.

“There is no single cause. What I’m concerned about is what drives the gangs in the turf wars and that’s an £11bn cocaine drugs market. We are the drugs market of Europe and I think the police and our country have lost control of that drugs market. You have children as young as 12, 13, being recruited into gangs to run drugs.

“I’m hearing nothing about what we’re going to do. Drugs are prolific. It’s like Deliveroo, they’re as prolific as ordering a pizza. You can get them on Snapchat, WhatsApp. That in the end is driving the turf war and it’s driving the culture of violence that’s now becoming endemic.”

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