Shootings rise in London – as police recover machete during Sky News filming
Written by Hit Music Radio News on 26/01/2021
The number of shootings in London is on the rise, despite the capital being in lockdown for significant parts of last year.
Scotland Yard figures reveal 288 incidents in 2020 where a lethal firearm was discharged, compared with 266 shooting incidents the year before.
The figures buck the trend of violent crime more generally, which has shown a 26% reduction over the past 12 months, helped in part by the restrictions in movement imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The number of homicides in the capital fell by 16% to 126 last year.
However, the Metropolitan Police are reviewing whether a rise in domestic killings, up from 16 to 22 last year, may have been exacerbated by lockdown.
Commander Dave McLaren said: “It is fair to say that mental health has played a part in a number of those crimes this year and it isn’t a massive leap of faith to say that lockdown has an impact on all of us in terms of our wellbeing.
“In terms of those cases, we have to see those reviews through and better understand the circumstances surrounding each of them before we get to the point of drawing a conclusion that there’s a direct assimilation with lockdown.”
Senior officers said the lockdown had enabled the force to focus resources on going after high harm offenders, with more than 3,800 violent crime suspects arrested in 2020.
New Violence Suppression Units (VSU), launched by the Met last May, contributed by carrying out many of those arrests and seizing around 700 knives.
Sky News followed one Violence Suppression Unit in Hackney, northeast London, as officers confronted those they suspected of being involved in violent activity.
On the edge of a local housing estate, a group of teenagers started running as they saw the officers’ van approaching.
They were chased on foot, scattering into the estate.
But officers found two of the gang hiding in nearby bushes.
They drew their tasers, shouting warnings at the youths to give themselves up, before pulling them from the bushes and handcuffing them.
As they were led away, other officers searched the spot they were hiding in.
Within minutes of that search, one of the team, PC Sam Courage, showed us a large machete, recovered from the bushes.
He said. “This is a deadly weapon. No one has the right to carry such a lethal object. It’s clear why the group ran off when they saw us.”
The officer also showed us a small package of around 30 wraps of what police believe to be crack cocaine and heroin.
The police unit Sky News filmed with is a mix of experienced officers and probationary constables, hired as part of the nationwide uplift in police numbers.
Although three of the officers we spoke to had only been in the job for a couple of months, they had already been at the sharp end of numerous operations to take weapons and violent offenders off the streets.
The second call of the day brought into sharp focus the concerns police have around the number of criminals apparently now willing to carry firearms.
The caretaker at another nearby housing estate called 999 after he was threatened at gunpoint.
As the team arrived at the scene, the man in his 40s, who had served in the military in the past, was extremely shaken, crying at one point as he tried to tell the officers what had happened.
He told them he confronted two men trying to steal the catalytic converter from his car.
When he challenged the men, one of them produced what he believed was handgun from his trouser pocket and threatened him.
The victim said he ran off and hid in a cupboard under the stairwell of the block of flats he was in.
Sergeant Aaron Griggs told me the victim “did exactly the right thing”.
“It could have been a lot worse,” he said. “We could have been dealing with a much more devastating outcome, but for this man’s good sense to run and hide.”
The officer said criminal gangs were increasingly targeting vehicles for the small amounts of precious metals in the catalytic converters.
“It is only worth a few hundred pounds to them, but for that, the criminal gangs are willing to threaten lethal force.”
In just five hours with Hackney’s Violence Suppression Unit, we attended multiple calls and saw the seizure of a deadly weapon and drugs.
But just a couple of miles from the spot where officers in Hackney were disrupting potential violence, another teenager became the latest victim of this never-ending cycle of misery.
In the neighbouring borough of Islington, paramedics battled to save the young stabbing victim’s life, but he died in the street where he was attacked.
Senior officers said the latest tragedy reinforced their determination to continue tackling violent crime as the Met’s number one priority.
© Sky News 2020