Criminals and drug dealers were caught in an undercover sting after police officers posed as staff in a fake hip hop music shop.
A total of 37 armed criminals and drug dealers, including 30 gang members, have been jailed for a total of more than 400 years following the ‘sting’ operation in the shop, called Boombox, in Edmonton, north London.
Codenamed Operation Peyzac, the £500,000 operation involved undercover officers kitting out as a fully-operating rap and hip hop music store, with a private back room which was used to carry out deals with drug and gun sellers, and the store was wired with CCTV and recording equipment.
The ‘shop’ operated for more than 12 months and officers, who were trained in the sort of music they were selling, were able to film the trading of firearms, ammunition and drugs.
On one occasion they captured a man on CCTV selling undercover police four guns. He had travelled to the shop on a busy bus with the loaded weapons hidden in a plastic bag.
Another man was filmed handing over cocaine with a street value of £4,000.
In April 2010 652 officers carried out simultaneous raids on 35 addresses across north and east London and Leeds.
As well as guns and drugs, police also uncovered swords, knives, a stun gun and CS gas during the swoops, and one gun was found hidden in compost.
The pictured criminals, aged between 16 and 41, were charged with various offences including drug dealing, trafficking guns and money laundering. They were jailed, or given community sentences or fined.
Two of the criminals’ images were not released by police.
At one address in Haringey, north London, officers discovered a gun conversion factory and seized a number of components of firearms plus ammunition.
Further raids at other London addresses revealed a large number of weapons, including knives and swords, two air rifles and a samurai sword.
They also found large amounts of Class A drugs and cash. Due to the strength of the evidence gathered, those arrested were charged and then convicted at Wood Green Crown Court between August 2010 and last Friday.
In total 21 firearms were removed from the streets. The men were jailed for firearms offences and for dealing drugs including crack cocaine, heroin, crystal meth, ecstasy and cannabis.
The enterprising officers came up with the plan following a tip-off gangs were operating in the neighbourhood after five young men were murdered in nearby Enfield between January and July 2008, including four teenagers.
The shop is in Edmonton, where Colombian student Steven Grisales was knifed and killed, and where a 15-year-old boy was stabbed as he walked to Silver Street train station.
Superintendent Lucy D’Orsi said she was proud of the ‘out of the box thinking’ that led to opening the shop allowing cops to infiltrate gangs in the crime-ridden area.
She said that Boombox had turned a ‘negligible’ profit, but added: ‘Let’s just say I wouldn’t take it to Dragons’ Den.’
She continued: ‘We looked at the age profile of the people we wanted to get intelligence out of and came up with the shop because it reflected their interests.
‘As we got an increasing number of young people into the shop we had the idea of putting in a couple of sound booths where people could do recordings. There was one for vocals where people could rap or sing, and another for music.
‘Eventually people came in offering drugs for sale, firearms for sale or stolen property for sale–a whole raft of stuff basically.
‘The undercover officers did brilliantly in handling all the situations thrown at them, and in gaining the trust of individuals coming into the shop wanting to engage in criminal activity.
‘They were given training in the types of music the shop would offer, as well as the running of the shop.’
Detective Chief Inspector Paul Harwood, the senior investigator, said they were responding to the community who had pleaded with them to stop the cycle of violence and crime on their streets.
DCI Harwood said: ‘Operation Peyzac is seen as one of the most innovative and successful covert operations run by the Met and this is attributed to the bravery and dedication of the undercover officers which was recognized with Judges Commendations.
He said that because of the overwhelming evidence gathered in the shop, 34 of the subjects pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity.’
James Jones, 27, of Tottenham, North London, was running a gun factory, and was also discovered with a ‘mobile conversion kit’ which he carried in a rucksack and which could be used to turn blank-firing pistols into full operative guns.
He was jailed for seven years after being convicted of manufacturing firearms and ammunition and possession of a firearm.
Others jailed included Junior Homer, 21, of Edmonton, who was sentenced to 10-and-a-half years in jail after being convicted of conspiracy to supply firearms, conspiracy to supply drugs, receiving stolen goods and passing counterfeit currency.
Kasheef Hardy, 25, of Green Lanes, north London, was jailed for 10 years for conspiracy to supply a firearm and ammunition.
Michael Ludia, 19, of Upper Holloway, north London,was punished with four years imprisonment for conspiracy to supply firearms consecutive to a five years and a six months sentence for five robbery offences.
DI Rob Murray, who ran the operation from day-to-day, said he didn’t know if any musical careers had been launched using the recording booths in the shop, but added: ‘I think a few potential careers have been put on hold for a while.’
The convictions are not part of one conspiracy, and instead cover a number of different criminal operations in Edmonton.
Cops found many of the criminals had links with three suburbs near the shop–Upper Edmonton, Edmonton Green and Lower Edmonton, and in the 12 months after mid-October 2009 the rates of highly violent crime in those areas fell by 6.9 per cent, 34.5 per cent and 45 per cent respectively.