Thursday, April 24, 2008

Blackstock Rd raid - a top cop responds

There has been some grumbling about whether the Blackstock Rd police raid at the end of March featuring 600 officers in riot gear (plus plain clothes officers) was 'heavy handed'. I know from speaking to people who have shops in the road that it was intimidating and a shock, and that it was hard for the innocent parties involved, although the area is bouncing back.

It was meant to be a shock. If you have to simultaneously arrest 52 people in 19 properties, some of which are three stories high with several rooms and back yards to search, plus you have to block the road and keep the public safe during the operation, then 600 officers is not actually that many - it works out at about 9 officers per arrestee, or 26 officers per building, plus officers blocking the roads. You also have to also factor in that some of the men arrested may be carrying knives ( given the spate of stabbings in the area and the stabbing to death of a police officer in 2005 during a raid by a man with links to the area) .

There is a lot more that I could say about what was going on in some of the cafes of Blackstock Rd, and where some of the money from stolen goods, drugs and forged passports and documents was flowing to, but I had better not, until after the trials. There are plenty of law-abiding Algerian families who have been here for a long time and who run perfectly respectable businesses in the area and are a valued part of the community. The lively mix of the area, especially the shops and cafes selling delicious bread and olives and spit-roast chicken is one of the reasons why I like living here so much.

But there has also been an influx of people from Algeria in the last few years, who are members of organised criminal gangs. Some of them were Islamist fundamentalists fleeing the military government in Algeria. Some of them were members of the Armed Islamic Group, the GIA and the GSPC. They mixed into the crowds of their fellow-countrymen, picked up the false documents that they needed to 'disappear', and set about making money illegally. They had begun to grow increasingly bold in the last 18 months. The street harassment of unveiled women was a symptom of something much worse.

Anyway, I was surprised but pleased to find a comment left by a police officer who registered and left a comment yesterday on the blog entry about the raid.


Thank you for your positive comments regarding Operation Mista and for those made by your contributors. I am pleased that we are winning the support of the local community following Phase 1 (Home address raids) and Phase 2 (Blackstock Road raids) on 27th March. We are now engaged in Phase 3, which is the long-term policing solution to eradicate organised crime and anti-social behaviour in your community.

I manage a pro-active team of undercover police and immigration officers (OP Swale) with the sole aim to remove foreign nationals from the UK who cause harm to our communities because of their criminal activity. If we cannot remove them (some nationalities are extremely difficult to deport) we will do our best to put them in prison for their crimes whilst working on a deportation solution.

OP Mista was 18 months in planning and 12 months was spent gathering evidence against 52 of the most harmful criminals. During the operation I have witnessed the harassment of females by these local youths, seen the blatant robbery of people going about their daily business, dealt with the aftermath of the stabbings and been amazed at the volume of stolen property that has passed through Blackstock Road. For each item of stolen property from a burglary, robbery or theft there was a story of loss, fear and violation of somebody’s life.

Nothing has pleased me more in my 21 years in the Metropolitan Police than to see a grown man cry for joy when he re-united with his stolen laptop containing all his family photos, emails, downloads, bank accounts and work all intact (none of it backed up!). The arrested suspect who decided to deprive this man of his memories is in custody awaiting trial.

OP Mista continues, only yesterday we executed search warrants at two more Cafes in Seven Sisters Road (3 arrests made, now a total of 97) as we spread the net to improve the quality of life for residents in the community. I can assure you that more raids will happen as and when we get the intelligence to justify them.

This is where we need your support. If you are not happy with what you see in your community just get in touch with us, you can always contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or contact my team directly. No doubt other criminals will try to fill the gap, so it is important we identify and remove them before they get a chance to embed themselves again.

I also acknowledge from the postings there are legitimate Cafes and businesses in the area who have welcomed the police action. We have done our best to target the premises who gave the criminal gangs refuge to operate within the area, but I am getting to know the good guys too as we sweep through the area. I do not want to upset the decent folk who just want to make an honest living, but in my experience some of the more overtly friendly café owners have turned out to be the worst offenders! I welcome your views on who you think we could work with in the future.

I assume you don’t get many posts direct from the police but I came across your blog by chance today whilst searching for a newspaper article. I think it is important to feedback what we are doing and what we want to achieve on your behalf.


Mike Duncan
Detective Inspector
OP Swale
Metropolitan Police

I hope the area stays calm, and the criminals don't come back. I hope business picks up for the shop keepers who have had problems. I know several local women friends have said that they are doing more shopping, not less, in the area now, because it is much more pleasant to walk to the shops without groups of men blocking the pavement, and I'm pretty hopeful that after everything that has gone on here in the last few years including the arrest of Abu Hamza after the trouble at the mosque, and the stabbings, and the gang problems, and the 7/7 bombs, that we might get a bit of peace and quiet at last.



Blogger Geoff said...

Lets all welcome DI Duncan to the world of blogging. Impressive first post :-) Maybe Rachel can get him to set up a Blackstock Road blog.

April 24, 2008 5:25 pm  
Blogger DAVE BONES said...

fascinating story

April 26, 2008 12:47 am  

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