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Stabbings prompt crackdown on festive violence

PUBLISHED: 10:56 17 December 2009 | UPDATED: 16:37 07 September 2010

THREE stabbings in the last week have caused Camden police to step up efforts to prevent young gang violence spilling over into the Christmas holidays. About 25 extra officers were drafted into Camden over the weekend as part of Operation

Ben McPartland

THREE stabbings in the last week have caused Camden police to step up efforts to prevent young gang violence spilling over into the Christmas holidays.

About 25 extra officers were drafted into Camden over the weekend as part of Operation Blunt - aimed at tackling knife violence among the city's youths.

Special "stop and search" powers were also brought in for most of the borough after the stabbings which police feared would spark further gang fights over the weekend.

On Tuesday last week, shoppers were stunned when a clash between two groups in Grafton Way, off Tottenham Court Road, saw a 16-year-old stabbed in the chest.

Police had feared the victim would not recover but his condition has improved this week.

The following afternoon, a 19-year-old was knifed and struck on the head with a stick when he was attacked by a gang in Belmont Street, Chalk Farm.

And on Friday afternoon, there was a further "minor" stabbing on the Denton Estate in Kentish Town.

Although officially the police will not say if the incidents are linked, the Ham&High understands the first two are being treated as connected.

Chief Insp Sean Wilson, of Camden police, said that the recent trouble had come out of the blue.

He said: "We are definitely worried about the recent outbreaks of violence.

"In terms of possible motives for it, we genuinely do not know. It could be a robbery that went wrong, a turf war over drugs or tit for tat gang violence, with youths trying to prove themselves.

"We have no direct information to link them. However, we are not blind to that possibility. To have three incidents in the same week suggests it is beyond a coincidence.

"I would appeal to the community and to those who know what is going on to contact us.

"We will be very robust regarding outbreaks of gang violence and we will be speaking to the families and the victims in the coming days."

Under Operation Blunt, officers from across London can be redeployed to boroughs at short notice to try to quell outbreaks of knife violence. On Friday, Camden was given an extra inspector, three sergeants and 21 constables. Section 60 powers were also introduced as far north as Hampstead Heath to give officers the power to search youths where there iss a threat of violence.

The Ham&High witnessed these powers being used on Friday night when a bus driver called police to a group of about 30 youths who became rowdy on the top deck.

The youths were ordered off the bus in Bayham Street, lined up against a wall and each one was searched for knives or weapons.

Sgt Anna McCartney, of Camden Police, said: "Normally we would not have the manpower to stop and search all of them - if they did have any weapon they would have passed it on between them and then thrown it over a wall."

No weapons were found in the search and several youths complained to the Ham&High that the search powers were victimising young people.

Police are waiting to see if they receive intelligence this week before deciding whether to draft in the officers for the traditionally busy end of school term on Friday.

Chief Insp Wilson said: "We will have extra patrols around and we will be liaising with the schools very closely. There will be extra focus towards youth violence and everything will be geared towards having a safe Christmas.


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