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Operation launched to halt the rise of gun crime

News   •   May 25, 2016 17:57 BST

[The Commissioner with seized firearms]

A pro-active operation to tackle gun crime with a focus on areas with the highest levels of firearms discharges has been launched by the Metropolitan Police Service.

The Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, launched Operation Viper to meet head on a recent spike in the number of gun discharges in London.

Led by the Trident and Gang Crime Command, Viper will consist of a team of 50 officers and include detectives from the Serious and Organised Crime Command (SCO7), uniformed officers from borough, and the Task Force, including the Territorial Support Group and the Dogs Unit.

The Force Firearms Unit (SCO19) will dedicate a team from the Armed Response Unit to support the work.

The officers will be deployed into priority boroughs, where most gun discharges occur, to work alongside borough colleagues to tackle the issue of gun crime.

The current priority boroughs are Hackney, Lambeth, Southwark, Brent, Newham and Tower Hamlets, but these will be kept under review.

The Viper officers will also be able to rapidly respond to issues emerging in other boroughs. Tactics employed through Viper are designed to make it harder for criminals to engage in gun crime.

Police activity will include high-visibility armed patrols, pro-active ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) operations, weapon sweeps, and intelligence-led stop and search.

Officers will be targeting known firearms offenders, making arrests and executing search warrants. Viper teams will work alongside borough colleagues to assist in educating young people about the dangers of carrying firearms.

The pro-active response using intelligence to target specific areas was set up following a recent increase in firearms discharges - a trend which has been seen around the country. The number of discharges in the Met this calendar year to date is 122 compared with 226 for calendar year 2015.

However, despite the recent increase the levels are still lower than have been seen in the recent past. Just five years ago there were 377 discharges a year. Compared with other capital cities around the world, London has low levels of gun crime, and guns in the UK are harder for criminals to obtain than in many other countries.

Last year, the Met took the highest number of weapons off the street with 714 firearms recovered thanks to concerted and co-ordinated efforts, and with operations such as Viper the number of weapons taken off the streets is set to increase again this year.

Commander Duncan Ball, in charge of Gangs and Organised Crime, said that although fatalities are low, one death was one too many and it is vital that police respond quickly to trends in criminal behaviour.

He said: "We are nowhere near the levels of five years ago but it is our job to keep it that way. We are seeing that at least half of these shootings are related to drugs and we will work closely with colleagues across the Met on that.

"We will have ARVs dedicated to this operation and we will keep reviewing how we respond across the Capital. Viper gives us renewed energy in our fight to take guns off the street.”

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service, said: "Firearm use is thankfully still rare in London and rarely affects those not involved in crime - but I am very concerned about the recent increase and we are determined to stop it. Our officers will use all their powers to take on the gunmen and those that supply them. If you know of someone who has access to a gun or supplies others with a gun - please tell us either where the guns are or who has them."

The Metropolitan Police Service is offering a sum of up to £2,000 as a reward for information that leads to the recovery of firearms, together with the arrest and prosecution of those in criminal possession of them.

Anyone who has any information about people that carry or use firearms can call 020 7230 8401, or in the event of an emergency 999.