Justin Davenport, Evening Standard (London), June 23
Teenage gunmen are responsible for a huge surge in shootings across London.
Police say they are arresting teenagers with loaded guns as young as 16, while one community leader told the Standard there were now 14-year-olds carrying guns.
The teenage gunmen are suspected of being behind a rise of as much as 146 per cent in gun crime in some London boroughs in the months since April, during which Met Police figures show a 10 per cent rise capital-wide.
One senior detective on Operation Trident, combating armed black drug gangs, said: “The gunmen are getting younger and younger. These kids are less disciplined than older gunmen and more volatile. The terrifying thing is they are getting hold of these guns and they are more willing to use them than older criminals.”
One youth, 19-year-old Troy Robinson, was shot dead and two other teenagers were injured in a gun battle involving four young men with guns in Wembley on Sunday night.
Boroughs recording the worst rises include Haringey, up 146 per cent since April to 69 incidents, compared with 28 in the same period last year. In Lambeth, the number of offences rose by 70 per cent from 36 to 61; in Islington, offences were up 93 per cent, from 16 to 31; in Wandsworth, they rose 88 per cent from 17 to 32.
Senior police officers point to a “chaotic” spate of shootingsin April. In Lambeth there were 48, compared with 14 in April last year.
Scotland Yard claims the numbers of incidents are now falling following a blitz against the gunmen, with covert armed operations and raids on suspects.
In a Brixton initiative police seized 11 guns in seven days last week.
Chief Superintendent Martin Bridger, Lambeth’s borough commander, has asked people to call him direct with gun crime intelligence. He has already received more than 60 such calls this year.
Mr Bridger said: “The average age of young people in gun crime is around 16,17 or
18. They are getting younger — it is a worrying trend.”
Met Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair said on a visit to Lambeth-yesterday that the Met had made mistakes when first tackling Jamaican Yardie gangs 10 years ago. “We did it to the Jamaican community and we failed,” he said. He said police were now working with the community to take on the armed gangs, the majority of whom were now British. But one senior community leader said police had failed to recognise the danger and now gang warfare was out of control.
He said: “I know of at least half a dozen gangs in Brixton alone but the Met are saying they do not exist. They have ignored the problem for years and now it’s blown up in their face. We have got kids of 14 with guns. I know — I have met them.
“The police just did not take the problem seriously in the first place but now it’s spread out of control.”