London police launch new anti-gang taskforce

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Saturday, July 5, 2008

After several initiatives dismissed by The Times as having "failed", the Met have opted for the high-profile Operation Blunt 2, which permits officers to use wands and airport-style knife arches.

London's Metropolitan Police Service (the Met) have launched a new 75-man taskforce to combat the rising tide of gang-related knife crime. This comes after the Met's Deputy Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson claimed yesterday that knife crime has replaced terrorism as the force's "number one priority".

Cquote1.svg We all have to work together to get the message across that carrying knives has got to stop... we need to broadcast the message quite simply: if you carry a knife, you are likely to be caught, you will be charged and you will be likely to go to prison. Cquote2.svg

—Sir Paul Stephenson

Over the last six months the city has seen 18 knife attacks - nearly as many as were committed throughout the whole of 2007. On Thursday 16-year-old Shakilus Townsend was the victim of one of such crimes, being stabbed near his home in Thornton Heath in the south of the city. This is allegedly what persuaded the Met to create the taskforce, which aims to prevent these attacks by patrolling the streets of London's toughest areas.

Kit Malthouse, deputy for policing to London mayor Boris Johnson, has welcomed the move, stating that "I'm extremely pleased the Met are ramping up their already significant efforts on Operation Blunt 2." Cindy Butts, deputy chairwoman of the Metropolitan Police Authority, added: "It would be wholly wrong if the Met had not responded to the further dreadful murders that have happened this week."

The taskforce is to be composed of specialists, members of the Territorial Support Group, traffic officers and dog handlers who seek to target known gangsters and their contacts, as well as conducting random searches. Stop and search powers have already been enacted in Operation Blunt 2, using Section 60 of the Public Order Act. There have so far been 26,777 of such searches, yielding over 1,200 arrests and 528 knife confiscations.

Sir Paul appealed yesterday for help from London's communities. "Sadly, in recent days, more young people have lost their lives to knife crime. This is not tolerable and clearly the message is not getting through," he said, adding that "we all have to work together to get the message across that carrying knives has got to stop... we need to broadcast the message quite simply: if you carry a knife, you are likely to be caught, you will be charged and you will be likely to go to prison."


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