Armed metropolitan police have launched a major operation in London to tackle gun crime in the British capital
Several hundreds of police officers have raided a travellers’ site in southeast London, arresting a number of suspects who police believe to have been involved in the supplying of firearms to criminal gangs.
Police firearms units entered the camp in Orpington shortly before 3am, In what was the largest police operation of its kind in recent years.
Dozens of armed police teams, including Scotland Yard’s elite Counter Terrorism Specialist Firearms Officers, used flash-bang grenades as distraction devices before entering the buildings and static caravans on the travellers’ site.
This comes after a ban on gatherings of groups of over six people within homes, parks, pubs and restaurants throughout England is being imposed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the biggest COVID-19 crackdown since the nation-wide lockdown rules were eased.
The armed units were also supported by hundreds of other police officers from the TSG public order unit of the Metropolitan Police, as well as local officers from the safer neighbourhood team in the area.
Commander Kyle Gordon, who is in charge of the London Metropolitan Police’s firearm’s command, oversaw the Orpington raids from Scotland Yard’s Special Operations Centre in central London.
“There’s a lot of fast-moving parts in an operation like this. But to see the teams operating the way they have, collaboratively in order to go in and achieve their objectives, has been something I’ve been really pleased to see.”
“We’ve managed to get onto the site. We now have control of the site and we’ve located a number of the individuals that we were looking to speak to and they’re now going to be helping with this ongoing investigation.”
These raids follow a worrying increase in gun crime in the capital city since the lifting of the nation-wide coronavirus lockdown precautions.
In July alone, there were 40 shootings in London, compared to 24 for the same period of time in the year previous.
In 2019, police seized a total of 303 firearms capable of firing lethal rounds. So far in 2020, 178 firearms have already been seized in the capital, despite a supposed general drop in violent crimes during the four months in which the UK has been in lockdown.
Commander Gordon said:
“Violent crime is the Met’s number one priority, we’ve been clear on that objective and this is the sort of operation that we need to be doing to tackle violence in the capital.”
“One of the things around this operation is that we’re looking to get to the supply of weapons and ammunition that’s used on the streets of London and get them at source, to actually stop them getting onto the streets in the first place and into the hands of criminals in the first place.”
This comes after the Prime Minister’s reported plan to scrap parts of his Brexit withdrawal deal “does break international law”, a cabinet minister has admitted, as the head of the UK government’s legal department has resigned due to his concerns about the plan.
The commander said that the initial intelligence, which sparked the major operation, as well as plans for the raids, had been gathered by local officers in Orpington, who are part of the police’s Safer Neighbourhood team in that area.
“The strength of safer neighbourhood teams is that they do work with local partners and with local communities.”
“They’re aware of what normal should look like within their areas and whenever they become aware of information and intelligence within the area that points to issues of real harm on the streets, they’ll raise that and we’ll be able to get resources to them to respond to those issues.”