Page last updated at 12:05 GMT, Sunday, 3 January 2010

Armed police patrols in London targeted gun crime

Armed police (Library)
Officers were worried about the impact of patrols on community relations

Further details have emerged about armed patrols carried out by Metropolitan Police in gun-crime hotspots in north and south London.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request revealed that CO19 armed officers undertook eight operations in estates in Brent, Lambeth, Wandsworth (including Moorlands estate in Brixton), Waltham Forest, and in Haringey (in Broadwater Farm estate) last year.

Entries made by officers in community impact assessment documents reveal that they were worried about the "adverse" impact on community relations as suspects were "predominantly black".

When news of the operations emerged it raised concerns about the patrols becoming "routine", forcing Met Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson to say that these were "pre-planned operations, with specific objectives".

Action 'imperative'

Names of suspects, gangs and specific estates were censored from the documents released under the FOI, according to the Press Association.

An officer in Waltham Forest wrote in the document that the borough had one of the highest rates of 999 calls linked to gun crime.

He said: "The application makes clear that gun-enabled crime within the borough is centred within the black community."

Saying that action was "imperative" an officer in Lambeth wrote: "This operation may have a minor impact in respect of community relations due to the subject and his fellow gang members being from a particular ethnicity."

A Brent officer was worried about the "adverse effect" but said police had the support of the wider community.

The last thing we want to do is elevate the status of criminals or say that police need to be armed to go on certain estates
Commander David Zinzan

"This operation is designed to tackle a specific problem of unlawful possession of firearms and the associated class A drug dealing."

In Haringey an officer said residents had requested police provide "a direct response".

The patrols found two guns in an underground garage in Lambeth, a rifle in Haringey and £30,000 cash in Waltham Forest, according to Commander David Zinzan, who is responsible for Lambeth, Greenwich, Southwark and Lewisham boroughs.

He said: "Three firearms found is a significant way towards making London safer for everyone.

"I suspect the £30,000 was not for a student to pay for university, it was probably for weapons or drugs.

"The last thing we want to do is elevate the status of criminals or say that police need to be armed to go on certain estates."

Officers carried out patrols in Brent on 8 and 9 September, Lambeth on 4 August 4 and 24 September, Wandsworth on 17 and 20 October, Waltham Forest on 26 June, and Haringey on 11 September.

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