Met Police fight gang crime by banishing 'glamour'

Met Police launch gang crime initiative with photocall in Trafalgar Square
Image caption The Commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe (pictured), wants to see a major reduction in gang violence

The Metropolitan Police has launched an initiative aimed at tackling gang crime in the capital. But why have Scotland Yard chiefs decided not to name the gangs they are targeting?

The £60m earmarked for the Met's new anti-gangs initiative is not new money and the 1,000 officers working on it will not be newly-recruited personnel.

It is more an exercise in reprioritising gangs and sharpening the focus. Think of it as Operation Trident Extra.

Operation Trident has been targeting gun crime in London since 2000 and Det Ch Supt Stuart Cundy says it is a "trusted and feared brand" which has had "phenomenal success".

Trident is the "Met's response to gun related activity occurring within London's communities".

It was originally set up to tackle "gun related murders within the black community" but later expanded to investigate and prevent gun crime in general.

So the Trident brand is being used to spearhead the new initiative which will seek to use existing resources in a more intelligent way.

But the police are conscious the gangs have their own distinctive brands that can be particularly alluring to young people.

So at the briefing to launch the initiative, there was no mention of London's notorious gangs such as the TMD (Tottenham Man Dem) or MDP (Money Drugs Power).

I asked why the Met was not following US police practice by identifying any of London's 250 gangs - 62 of which it describes as "high harm" - by name.

Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley said: "In American cities they have gangs which have in some cases been in existence for generations. UK gangs are less established."

Commander Steve Rodhouse added: "Because the gangs seek respect from each other we do not intend to do anything that seeks to glamorise them or put them on a pedestal."

The Met is keen to nip gangs in the bud before they put down roots, which will be much harder to dig up.

So it is a deliberate decision not to follow the example of the Los Angeles Police Department who identified exactly who they would be coming after when they started a similar initiative.

In 2007 LAPD chief Bill Braxton and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa unveiled a new crackdown on gangs and named the 11 "worst gangs", including the Grape Street Crips and a notorious Latino gang, the Mara Salvatruncha, or MS-13.

The man leading London's the new strategy, Det Ch Supt Cundy, is a detective who has built a solid reputation by leading the successful investigations into the murder of aspiring model Sally Ann Bowman in 2005 and the £40m Graff's diamond robbery in 2009.

Since 2010, he has been in charge of Operation Trident and he has now been tasked with driving down levels of gang crime.

Det Ch Supt Cundy said: "In areas like Hackney we have good intelligence (on gangs) and we need to replicate that in other areas. Some gangs are based on postcodes. Others are much more than that."

He said: "We need to do more to divert young men from gangs but there is also a growing percentage of young women involved in gangs. Some are coerced and are vulnerable."

Image caption The murder of Etem Celebi in Stoke Newington in 2007 is one of many unsolved gang murders

As part of the new strategy, gang members will be offered ways out of the gang culture. But if they refuse, the police plan to come down hard on them.

So there will be more "call-ins" like the one in Enfield last month where members of the Get Money Gang (GMG) were brought to court and given a chance to eschew gang membership.

Councils across London, along with voluntary groups like the St Giles Trust, are able to offer support and encouragement for young people leaving gangs.

Det Ch Supt Cundy has been told by the Met Police Commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe, to deliver a "major reduction in gang violence", similar to what Mr Hogan-Howe himself achieved while in charge of Merseyside Police.

And it seems his key tactic is to prevent "embryonic" gangs in London becoming established brands, like the MS-13, the Latin Kings, Bloods and the Crips in the US.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites