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Thursday, 11 July, 2002, 23:25 GMT 00:25 UK
Fighting crime with intelligence
Police force entry into flat
Taking criminals by surprise

You could feel the rise in tension as we drove into the estate.

"They'll spot us as soon as we arrive," said one of the detectives, as our unmarked police car turned the corner.

He was right. As we pulled up, net curtains twitched and a young man stared at us from a bedroom window as he talked into a mobile phone.

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From across the street, another man emerged from a house, talking on another mobile. He and a friend jumped into a car and drove away smartly.

It sends a message out to the community - we will not tolerate drugs

Detective Sergeant Carter

A neighbour began piling cases into the boot of a car, as if he was planning a long journey.

The locals had spotted a number of large men in jeans and trainers emerging from our small convoy of unmarked vehicles.

They did not need telling that a police raid was about to begin.

Detectives had been tipped off about a couple of stolen cars spotted outside a block of flats on this North London estate.

The owner of one of the vehicles had been attacked with a bottle, so the police "pro-active unit" had arrived in force, ready for trouble.

Ignoring the other residents, the team climbed a flight of stairs and moved swiftly along a first floor balcony.

Softly softly approach!

Amid shouts of "police, police" a battering ram was used to force open the front door of the flat.

Inside, caught by surprise, were the two young men the police were seeking. They offered no resistance as they were handcuffed and taken away for further questioning.

In addition to recovering the two cars, the police also found what appeared to be a stolen credit card.

Investigations are still continuing, but the team appeared pleased with their morning's work.

Special officers prepare for forced entry
Preparing for uninvited visit

Police operations like this rely on good intelligence. A search warrant is needed before detectives can move in, and the magistrate will want good reasons to justify a forced entry.

But where the police have strong suspicions, they will apply for a warrant immediately, so the premises can be raided before the criminals leave or dispose of the evidence.

Back at the police station, Detective Sergeant Geoff Carter explained that each borough now has an intelligence unit, responsible for gathering information and briefing the police units who follow up the leads.

"Within our department there is crime analysis as well, so they will monitor rises in certain areas, and we can react straight away," he said.

Early visit

Earlier, I had watched him supervise a raid on a housing estate where the police have been trying to stamp out drug dealing.

It was 0835 BST, and the estate was quiet, apart from a few people going to work.

Again the front door of the flat was quickly smashed open using a steel ram called "the enforcer".

Inside detectives found four adults asleep. A search of the premises revealed a variety of drug-taking paraphernalia but no drugs.

There was no evidence to justify an arrest, although the officers were in no doubt that the occupants were users of hard drugs.

As the search continued, a girl aged about 11 emerged from the flat. She hurried off along the corridor, not wanting to be late for school.

As she disappeared, a woman police officer shook her head in disbelief.

"What sort of chance does a child have, growing up in that environment?" she asked.

Because of the girl's presence in the house, the police child protection unit will be informed, and social services may become involved if she is thought to be at risk.

There will be no criminal proceedings against any of the four adults in the flat, however, because no drugs were found. Despite the suspicions of detectives, they found no evidence of dealing.

But the police do not regard the raid as a waste of time.

Drugs education

"It sends out a message to the community," said Detective Sergeant Carter.

"We will not tolerate drugs."

The same message is being given to schoolchildren in the borough. At Whitefield Sports College, I listened as a police officer talked to pupils about drugs.

The emphasis was on the law, and judging by some of their questions, the youngsters were a little hazy about the classification of drugs and the penalties for using them.

At one time, schools tried to steer their pupils away from cigarettes. Now they are warned about the dangers of crack cocaine, heroin and ecstasy.

It may be a depressing sign of the times, but given the temptations children are exposed to, it is a lesson they need to learn.

Cracking down on drugs
Caught by surprise

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