April 2018, in response to incidents of knife crime and street violence, the Met formed the Violent Crime Task Force (VCTF) to help tackle the issue, take weapons off the streets and to keep London’s communities safe.
Made up of 272 officers across a range of disciplines and specialisms, the VCTF carry out a variety of activities as part of the Met’s response to violence, and almost a year on they have had a significant impact on levels of crime.
From April 2018 to mid-January 2019, they carried out 5,457 weapons sweeps in public parks and open spaces looking for weapons and drugs. They seized 226 firearms, 580 knives, 422 offensive weapons and arrested 2,795 people for weapons, violence and drug-related offences.
But the Met’s response to violent crime involves officers’ right across the city from different units and specialisms to neighbourhood policing and is 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Between 14 and 27 January, officers from the VCTF, the Dog Unit, colleagues from Operation Trident – the Met’s gang violence unit – the Territorial Support Group and Roads Policing Units, have together carried out more than 1,390 separate activities to reduce violence. These have included search warrants, weapons sweeps, traffic-related operations, stop and searches, knife arches and other intelligence led activities.
This activity led to 483 arrests, including 102 for weapons and knife offences; 144 weapons recovered including 67 knives as well as firearms; and 279 drug seizures including a “fist-sized” lump of crack cocaine from a man stopped on a moped.
In addition, there were 153 warrants executed across London, which resulted in a further 115 arrests. During these warrants, significant amounts of drugs and cash were also seized, including £10,000 from a suspected drug dealer; 31 safeguarding interventions were also implemented to protect vulnerable adults and children. One of these activities saw teams recover a vulnerable missing person from an address that was being used by drug dealers.
Other teams across the Met also support the work to reduce violence. As well as using a range enforcement strategies, the Met is engaged in crime prevention, safeguarding activity and work to reduce reoffending – seeking to protect those who are vulnerable to being drawn into violence and diverting others away from crime.
The Met created Divert in April 2015. Recognising the needs of young adults after arrest, the program aims to divert 18-25 year olds towards employment and education opportunities, prevent re-offending, reduce the number of victims and help mitigate the ongoing risks encountered by many of the vulnerable young adults that come into police custody.
Divert has already proven that using police custody as a “teachable moment” in a young person’s life is an effective intervention opportunity and over the last two weeks alone the teams have engaged with 31 people within the custody environment. Information and guidance has been provided and 12 people have already enrolled on a pre-employment course and the rest are continuing to work with the Divert programme.
Chief Superintendent Ade Adelekan, who heads up the VCTF, said: “Officers from across the Met are working tirelessly to reduce the levels of violence, prevent crime, protect communities, take weapons off the street and bring perpetrators to justice. Bearing down on violent crime continues to be the top priority for the Met.
“In the last two weeks alone, officers across the city have made significant arrests, taken further weapons off the streets and, I am in no doubt, prevented crimes from occurring. I hope this snapshot of just some of the work the Met has been doing provides reassurance to our communities.
“It isn’t just officers from the VCTF and other operations units that are making a difference to street violence. There is an array of other activities from prevention work in schools to diversionary activities run by neighbourhood teams within the community.
“We know there is still a significant amount of work still to do in order to rid the capital of violence and we cannot solve this problem alone. The police, our partners and the public must continue to work together to deal with knife crime and prevent further young lives being lost.
“Communities have an absolutely vital role to play in tackling violent crime. We want to hear from anyone who may have information about people who may carry knives, or who are involved in organised drug crime and maybe exploiting young people, putting them into dangerous and vulnerable situations. This information could save lives in the future. Please get in touch.”
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said:“Since forming in April last year, the City Hall-funded Violent Crime Taskforce has been working day and night to target violent offenders and rid our streets of knives and other dangerous weapons. The Taskforce is one part of the wider response to violence, and works in conjunction with other teams across the force, to maximise impact. This collaborative approach is having a serious impact in our efforts to tackle violence in London.
“We know the causes of violence are hugely complex and are decades in the making, and I’m clear the police cannot address this issue alone. That is why, working with the Met, we’ve launched London’s Violence Reduction Unit involving specialists in health, police and local government to tackle the root causes of crime. We have also invested in youth and preventative services to give thousands of young Londoners better life opportunities.”
If you have information that may help prevent a violent crime, or help an investigation, but you aren’t comfortable speaking directly to police, please contact the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. They do not ask your name or trace your call.
Any young people who have either information about violence or knife crime, can visit www.fearless.org where they can pass on information anonymously. Fearless is part of the Crimestoppers charity, and is also independent of the police.
If you need help or information to support someone you suspect is involved in knife crime, or you want to assistance yourself, then you can visit www.knifefree.co.uk
LONDON VIOLENT CRIME FACTFILE
Ch Supt Ade Adenekan, leads the Met Police Violent Crime Task Force. He was also Newham’s borough commander who stepped up security in the borough amid concerns of “tit for tat” violence amongst gang members.