By Daniel Hunter

Dozens of suspected gang members are being targeted today (Wednesday 8 February) in a series of coordinated operations which marks the start of a major new crack down on gang crime by the Metropolitan Police Service.

Today's significant operation, which is being spearheaded by a newly formed Trident Gang Crime Command, sees the beginning of a step change in how the MPS tackles gang crime in the capital and forms a key part of the Met Commissioner's total war on crime.

Hundreds of police officers will be taking part in today's operation which sees suspected gang members being pursued for a series of crimes, including assault, robbery and drugs supply in a refreshed approach to help stop young people getting killed or seriously injured.

One thousand officers will now be dedicated to tackling gang crime in London with the creation of a central Trident Gang Crime Command as well as the introduction of local task forces across London. The new command will retain responsibility for the prevention and investigation of shootings, but will now work more closely with boroughs to proactively tackle gang crime.

The new command will be enhanced with additional specialist resources from the MPS, including Operation Connect and the Serious and Organised Crime Command (SCD7). It will take responsibility for real time monitoring of gang activity across London and work with new 'Grip and Pace' centres to coordinate and task corporate resources, both overt and covert, quickly at the relevant places.

19 priority boroughs will have dedicated gang crime task forces to deal with local gang crime, and will work with their partners to implement diversion and prevention activities. Other boroughs and specialist commands will also be required to have more of a focus on gang crime.

The new approach builds on the good work already seen in the MPS and ensures all the expertise and skills in the service are brought together and used in a more targeted and effective way. It will see better and more consistent use of intelligence to identify and prioritise the most harmful gangs and gang members, while spotting young people on the periphery who can be referred to other agencies for help in keeping away from crime.

"This is a step change in how we tackle gang crime in London. It will allow us to identify and relentlessly pursue the most harmful gangs and gang members. It will help us identify young people on the periphery of gangs and work with partners to divert them away," MPS Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe said.

"Although we are now nearly doubling the number of officers dedicated to tackling gang crime, the police can not do this alone. It is vital we work with the public, local authorities, charities and other agencies to prevent young people from joining gangs in the first place."

According to MPS intelligence systems there are an estimated 250 active criminal gangs in London, comprising of about 4,800 people. Of these gangs 62 are considered as high harm and commit two thirds of all gang-related crime.

The gangs range from organised criminal networks involved in Class A drugs supply and firearms, to street-based gangs involved in violence and personal robbery. This relatively small number of people is responsible for approximately 22% of serious violence, 17% of robbery, 50% of shootings and 14% of rape in London.

Gangs exist in and around all parts of the capital but are more prevalent in about 19 London boroughs. They are made up of mainly young people, aged between 18 and 24 years, but officers have seen even younger children involved in or on the periphery of gangs.

"The vast majority of young people in London are law-abiding, good citizens who make a positive contribution to our communities. However, there are still too many young people who are, or could get involved in gangs," Commissioner Hogan-Howe added.

"We want to prevent young people getting involved in gang offending so we and other agencies are offering ways out to support young people. However, those who refuse our offer of help will be pursued and brought to justice.

"Getting involved in gangs can ruin a young person's life. With a criminal record it can be harder to get a job or into further education, while being involved in violence can lead to getting arrested, sent to prison, seriously injured or even killed.

"We're not concerned with peer groups or just friends who may 'hang around' and we have no intention of criminalising an entire generation. Our focus is on violence and criminal behaviour associated with gangs and gang members."

Later today in a massive show of strength the Commissioner and Mayor of London Boris Johnson will be joined by dozens of police officers, community workers, council leaders and relatives of people killed in gang crime as they take part in a team photograph in a public demonstration against gang crime in London.

Ingrid Adams, mother of Negus McClean who was murdered last year is attending today's event in Trafalgar Square. She pledged her support to the Met's renewed approach.

"I go to bed thinking of Negus and wake up thinking about him. I will always remember his smile. Even if a child isn't in a gang they probably know someone who is in a gang or is affiliated with a gang," she said.

"The police need to start with children very early. When I was growing up the police used to come into my school. You have to start young and talk to them to gain their trust. I know there is a problem with so called snitching and loyalties. But keeping quiet isn't helping the problem.

"There is this wall of silence that needs to be broken down. They need to come forward to talk to the police. The wall of silence needs to stop. Since Negus there has been so many others.

"Negus was murdered on a Sunday; it was a bright sunny day. It could happen to anybody. It is anybody this problem doesn't just affect the poor, people from broken homes or gang members, it could happen to anyone."

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