Here the borough is under siege from gangs of youths stealing Mopeds and using them to speed onto pavements to snatch bags, jewellery and phones and making a quick getaway. It is an affluent borough, home to the famous Camden Market and abutting the West End, so the concern that the rise Smash and Grab raids on jewellery and tech stores is affecting community relations as these offenders get more and more audacious.
The story of the Camden Surgeon who lives and works in the area was chilling. Returning home with his wife, helmeted youths threatened him with a hammer. They hit him with it on the head and absconded with his phone and wallet. His fear for himself and his family was palpable and it is obviously still affecting him months later.
Similarly, a little old lady had her handbag snatched by her own front door, she was angry as it was her assertion that the neighbourhood were good citizens, engaging with Police in neighbourhood watch schemes and the like and nothing was being done.
A public meeting was held and borough Commander was taken to task. It was very interesting to see the difference in the atmosphere of this meeting and that of the one shown in the first episode of the series Hackney. No shouting, no swearing, hushed even. Each participant expressing their ire in resigned and restrained anger. The difficulty was that the police were hamstrung by the fact that thieves were blatantly aware that police cannot chase suspects who are not wearing helmets so when high speed pursuits were happening, suspects were getting their pal to lob off their helmet and turning down narrow alleyways. If these young men were to die in a a pursuit without helmet, the Met are criminally culpable.
How to address the problem then? Simply put, decoy bikes were used to lure in potential suspects, intelligence gathered on their movements and then arrests made in relation to the drug dealing they were doing whilst on stolen Mopeds. Arresting them at home or in the act of tampering with stationary bikes is safer than high speed chases. Drugs are being kept off the streets and gangs were being disrupted.
The really worrying thing about this trend is the average age of the culprits which was 18, youngsters as young as eleven involved in the theft of mopeds.
Originally designated as a unit to investigate Black on Black violence, the Trident group now focus on any violent crime Pan London and in this episode we saw two officers targeting a group of twenty offenders wanted for violence and drugs supply in a Set of coordinated dawn raids supported by the TSG using enforcer equipment to gain entry to addresses, they caught 16 in one foul swoop and drugs and weapons were seized.
The rest of the episode focused on the efforts to capture those who remained at large and who were inevitably taking up positions vacated by those imprisoned as a result of the initial operation. Intelligence had identified a number of likely youths who ere coming up the ranks.
The dramatisation of The Wire came to mind as DS McNaughton explained that young boys as young as eleven were being used as drugs runners and being groomed for the role by being given gifts of clothes and trainers until they find themselves ten years later being rudely awoken by police who arrest them with thousands of pounds in their bedrooms and a car boot filled with rocks of crack cocaine totalling £40,000 in street value . He was imprisoned for five years
The final raid and the last of the original suspects was caught in possession of a cleaver/machete weapon behind the front door to use against police wanting to detain him, luckily the numbers of officers storming the house overpowered him with not a single injury on either side. He was imprisoned for three years and the crime rate in the area dropped by 50% as a direct result of the operation as as suppliers of drugs were no longer in the area, the addicts who would come into the neighbourhood to do robberies, burglaries or snatches to pay to buy the drugs had also been displaced.
The featured response police, your Bobby on the beat, were a thoroughly likeable pair whose in car banter revealed a great camaraderie so their dismay at being first responders to a crowd of two hundred following a stabbing at a community Barbecue event was founded, both victim and perpetrator had already left the scene, but is seemed to be as a result of rival gangs clashing. I was most interested by the reaction of the teenage crowd who on being asked quietly to step outside the police tape began a diatribe about the corruption of the MPS and heavy handed tactics, the female PC correctly pointing out that it was they and not her who were throwing around stereotypes and that the " Them and Us " culture was always hard to fight because of prejudices held by the residents and that in fact that police and a large majority of the ordinary people there were all looking for the same outcome, to avoid further violence and safely disperse the crowd.
The arrest of a youth of 16 who had already been victim of a shooting and a stabbing himself and yet was toting around a 9 inch kitchen knife, which he hurriedly discarded into bushes on police pursuit, seemed inconsistent but carrying weapons are all part and parcel of life in that area of South London. He came quietly and police were left trying to find a sheet of paper large enough to scale the blade for evidential purposes.
Perhaps the most upsetting call was to another 16 year old multiple stabbing victim, who despite the honourable attempts of the featured officers as first on the scene to help him with CPR and life breaths later died in hospital, the wailing cries of his friend as he realised his pal was fading and his tears when reliving events, will stay with me a long while. The officers scarred by the event, the parents irreparably affected and his younger sister so scared that she has stopped going to school and for what?
A friend dispute whereby the victim asked for his £90 back after the boy failed to give him the bike he had paid for so under the guise of bringing payment, the boy lured the victim and stabbed him multiple times resulting in his death , the culprit was caught and sentenced to fifteen years in prison.
Hear from the stars of this episode below
Name: Tim Dawes
Job title: Police Constable
Years with the Met: 11
Career to date: Tim has spent all his career on the response team at Lambeth.
I enjoyed the show and I thought it gave a good snapshot of response work, but you can’t really capture the breadth of incidents we’re called to, such as domestic violence and mental health-related incidents.
The murder at the end of the programme actually took place on the first day of filming and I think from there they had their idea of what they wanted to focus on. I’ve been first-on-scene at three or four murders in my career; thankfully they’re not that common. It was sad because he wasn’t linked to any gang activity, he just wanted his money back.
Attending scenes like the one at the start of the episode when there’s so many people can be a bit scary. People usually overestimate numbers of people, so it was a bit surprising to find there were actually more than 200 people. It’s understandable why people don’t come forward in front of everyone else, but once it died down a few people did talk to us.
Will the show change public perceptions? Maybe in the short term. After the 2011 riots and Olympics we got a lot of praise. Sadly those good feelings only tend to last until the next scandal; the public judge us on our last mistake.
Since the show aired, I’ve had the mick taken a bit. My brother sent me a mock up of a picture from Jaws; instead of “We’re going to need a bigger boat”, it was “We’re going to need the A3 paper!”.
Name: Bob Dolce
Job title: Detective Sergeant
Years with the Met: 18
Career to date: Bob began his career in uniform at Streatham before moving to plain clothes in Brixton. He spent three years at the Directorate of Professional Standards before getting promoted and moving to Kingston. After a spell in Croydon in the Intelligence Unit, he joined the Crime Squad and was then seconded to the West Area Crime Squad. He’s spent the last four years with the Trident Central Gangs Unit.
The programme shows a good cross-section of what policing is all about, in particular around the uniformed guys: one minute they’re dealing with a burglary, the next they’re trying to save someone’s life.
With regards to what we do at Trident, I hope the public got a sense of the lengths we go to, to target violent gang members. Everyone at Trident is highly motivated and, at times, we work very long hours to gain evidence and make a solid arrest so they don’t get bailed. I thought we came across as very professional – apart from a few swear words from me!
Although what the BBC showed of our work was great, they could only really capture a small amount of what we do. You didn’t really see the huge amount of surveillance and background work that goes into an operation. Each operation can last anywhere from a couple of months to over a year.
The Met giving the BBC editorial rights was a brave move, but I believe it’s turned out well. There were only a couple of times we said they couldn’t show something that would have compromised current operations or given away tactics.
Name: Richard Tucker
Job title: Detective Chief Superintendent, Camden Borough Commander
Years with Met: 30
Career to date: After two years as a PC, Richard went on to spend much of his career in the CID. He was a detective constable for 16 years in homicide and at Stoke Newington and Newham, before moving to Tower Hamlets, first as detective sergeant and then detective inspector. Richard moved back to Newham as detective chief inspector and then joined Camden as detective superintendent. He was made detective chief superintendent earlier this year.
The public meeting you see me at was pretty uncomfortable. But residents are absolutely entitled to ask questions of us and they had some very genuine grievances. One thing the programme didn’t show was the joint work we and SCO did together to identify and arrest the group who had been carrying out the house raids on mopeds. Since then we’ve had a big decrease in those types of incidents, although moped-enabled crime is something we’re still working on and we have several operations ongoing.
I spoke to everyone personally after that meeting and apologised in particular to the man who said he’d never had any contact from the officer who had been assigned to him. Most of our staff are brilliant but one or two had let us down.
I’m very open with people and the public know they can contact me directly if they have any concerns. We have to remember that it’s all very well saying burglaries are at their lowest for 40 years, but the bloke who’s just had his house burgled doesn’t want to hear that. Regardless of their wealth they want to know what the police are doing about it. The challenge I have is resourcing; we have to get the right balance between being more visible in the day and having more officers out late at night and at other more appropriate times.
One thing that struck me watching the show – and I’m sure must have struck the public – is the stark contrast between Hampstead and Lambeth just a couple of miles away. I’m very supportive of the programme because it shows the good work of the Met that doesn’t normally come out in the media. People’s expectations of us are very high and the challenge is to meet that standard all the time. It sometimes feels that everyone outside the Met thinks they’re an expert on policing, but the show demonstrates that it’s not as easy as people think.