by Stephen Moore
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
At least two people including a known gang member were arrested, a Porche and a quantity of drugs were seized in a series of early-morning police raids in Westminster today.
The crackdown, conducted across the capital under the codename Operation Big Wing, was targeted at tackling gang violence, drugs and knife crime.
The Wood & Vale joined Insp Andrew “Charlie” Morrow and his team on three of the raids in Westminster, including a flat in Abercorn Place, Maida Vale, where a man, pictured, was led away in handcuffs after his arrest on suspicion of possession of cannabis.
A second man was arrested at a property in Great Western Road, Westbourne Green, on suspicion of possession with intent to supply Class A drugs.
And despite police not finding the man they wanted when they raided a tiny one-bedroom flat in Goldney Road, Maida Hill, they did find his Porsche - and promptly seized it under the Proceeds Of Crime Act.
A crack house on the Harrow Road was also due to be raided for a third time as the Wood & Vale went to press. Police have previously seized at least £15,000 in cash and large amounts of Class A drugs from there, and made several arrests.
The suspects are all on the Metropolitan Police’s gangs matrix, a vast database taking information from various official sources and combined with police intelligence to give the most rounded picture of each individual and their movements.
“This is why the gangs matrix is so good,” said Insp Morrow. “We pay extra attention to the matrix. And the key is to balance that enforcement with diverting them [from crime] with tickets for littering, not having a TV licence, and so on.”
After the raids, police handed out leaflets to neighbours explaining what they are doing and why, and members of the borough’s feted Integrated Gangs Unit (IGU), set up in November 2011, visit residents to gather witness statements and reassure them that action is being taken, alongside their local Safer Neighbourhoods Team officers.
Maria Brown, an enforcement officer with the IGU, said: “We tend to work with the victims and witnesses. i will speak to the neighbours to try and get evidence. They are often relieved and happy that somebody is doing something.
“They have to trust me in order to get the statements to present to the court. It is not always appropriate to take statements on the doorstep so I will arrange to meet them somewhere like a cafe or a police station, wherever they feel most comfortable.
“And for example if large sums of cash are found I will contact the housing benefit team, and liaise with the local authority in terms of any damage done to the property.”
The raids under Operation Big Wing represent just a fraction of those carried out by Westminster Police, who are keen to point out that more will follow.
The Met’s Ch Supt Simon Letchford said: “Gang violence, drugs, and knife crime are serious, high-harm crimes that can sadly have a devastating and lasting effect on local communities; however, there are also many other issues which might be seen as ‘lower level’ offences, such as anti-social behaviour or uninsured drivers, that we know can and do blight the daily lives of too many people.
“Today’s operation is about showing Londoners that we have listened to their concerns and we are committed to taking robust preventative and disruptive action to stop this criminal activity and make their communities safer. It’s also about warning those intent on breaking the law and engaging in criminal activity that we will be doing everything we can to stop them, and wherever possible we will be putting them before the courts.”