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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 September 2006, 10:20 GMT 11:20 UK
Q&A: Operation Trident
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Operation Trident, a Metropolitan Police team dedicated to tackling gun crime within the black community, seized hundreds of weapons in dawn raids in Kent. What is the operation?

What are the origins of Operation Trident?

Operation Trident was set up in 1998 in response to a string of what are often called "black-on-black" shootings and murders in the Lambeth and Brent areas of London.

The killings, mainly of young men, came amid fears of a wave of 'yardie'-style violence, linked to a growing crack cocaine problem and a spiralling guns culture.

Officers were finding the cases hard to investigate as fear of reprisals meant witnesses were afraid to come forward, and there was a general distrust of the police.

As the violence continued, the operation was extended to cover the whole of the capital a year later, with a special focus on drug-related gun crime.

How does it work?

Operation Trident now exists as a dedicated unit within the Metropolitan Police, which helps officers in local police stations investigate shootings and collate intelligence from across the capital on suspected gunmen, firearms suppliers and gun converters.

This information is then used to arrest suspects, trying to stop shootings from happening and disrupting the flow of weapons.

The unit also works with customs and immigration officials and other agencies in the UK and Jamaica to gather intelligence and identify suspects.

Operation Trident has waged a series of ad campaigns
In 2000, a fresh commitment by the Met to improve its performance in tackling black community murders gave Operation Trident renewed impetus.

It was relaunched with three specialist senior detectives in command, supported by a team of 160 officers.

It now has some 290 police officers and scores of support staff working in teams dedicated to murders, shootings and intelligence gathering.

Since 2004, Trident has further expanded beyond the black communities to cover shootings in all the capital's communities.

How is the community involved?

Community involvement has been seen as key to Trident's success from the outset, with the Trident Advisory Panel set up to harness public support and keep officers informed.

Before the operation was launched, the flow of intelligence about drug-related shootings was negligible.

The operation has maintained a high profile, waging glossy advertising campaigns, using eye-catching posters, cinema adverts and celebrity backing, and involvement in community events such as the Urban Music Festival at Earl's Court.

Publicity is seen as key both to persuading the public to play its part in providing crucial intelligence and to challenging gun culture and the belief among some sections of communities that someone with a gun will gain respect and fear.

Has it been a success?

Along the way, Operation Trident has had a number of successes, including the conviction in 2004 of Owen Clark, aka Father Fowl - a drugs kingpin whose operation, involving crack cocaine and gun crime, stretched from north west London to Jamaica and the Caribbean.

The Met says his detention had a major impact on drug dealing and shootings in north west London.

Last July two men were convicted at the Old Bailey over a massive gun conversion racket uncovered by Trident officers, disrupting an operation which had supplied hundreds of illegal firearms to criminals throughout Britain.

After reaching a peak of 24 murders investigated by Trident in 2002, the number of such cases halved to 12 in 2003 - with suspects apprehended in most.

According to the Met, all of the 15 murders the Trident team investigated between 2005 and 2006 were solved.

The latest figures show gun crime incidents investigated in the capital by Operation Trident fell from 95 offences in April to July 2005 to 78 in April to July 2006.

Overall, gun-enabled crime was 23.1% lower, the Met Police said.

Similar operations have now begun in other cities including Birmingham, Bristol and Nottingham.

However, the reluctance of witnesses to testify remains a problem, with some unwilling to be on protection schemes because of the personal sacrifices involved.

Drugs are still readily available - at lower prices - and in spite of pro-active investigations targeting gun dealers, the flow from abroad of illegal weapons, replicas and deactivated guns that can be made ready for use continues.

Firearms seized in police raids
13 Sep 06 |  London
Trident: Battling gun crime
13 Aug 02 |  England
Drug dealer jailed for 13 years
15 Jun 04 |  London

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