New Islington and Camden police chief launches violent crime taskforce – and says moped crime is going down
- Credit: Harry Taylor
The new police chief for Islington and Camden has already launched a taskforce to tackle violence – and said significant reductions are being made in moped crime.
Speaking to the Gazette for the first time since taking over the role from Catherine Roper in April, Det Ch Supt Iain Raphael said the drop in moped offences was down to the dedicated team working to stop it.
In March, April and May last year there were 1,150 moped crimes in Islington. During the same period this year there were 336. In Islington and Camden combined last year during the same three months there was 2,350. This year the figure is 923 – a 60 per cent reduction.
Dr Raphael explained: “We’ve got a multitude of things going on. Most boroughs in London don’t have a motorbike team. We’ve got a better pursuit policy. So if all the circumstances are appropriate, with highly trained officers, we will tactically intervene.
“We are more likely to pursue now, having taken on learning from the past. We have things like traceable liquid sprays, stinger devices, officers on the street with tablets. The teams are out there on Bank Holidays – they are out there pretty much every day of the week. And it’s having an impact. It’s not where I want it to be yet but I think it’s not a bad place to be. We’ve had some significant arrests.”
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Operation Patek is Islington and Camden’s new initiative to target violence as part of the Met’s wider project. Since it began in April, knife crime injuries have dropped from 30, in the same period last year, to 15.
In the 12 months leading up to June 2017 there were 83 knife crime injury offences, whereas in the last year there has been 63 – 24pc down.
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Rolling figures for gun crime are also promising. In a 12 month period up to June 2017 there were 93, in the last 12 months there have been 65 – a 30pc drop.
Dr Raphael added: “I’m not complacent but it feels as though we’ve got some big plans in place and they are starting to deliver.”
As for what happens after moped crooks and gang members are charged, Dr Raphael also said progress had been made in getting tougher sentences, something police have previously criticised the courts over.
“I think we’re starting to see better sentences,” he said. “We’ve had more sensible convictions and we are better at linking series of crimes so we’ve certainly influenced that and courts are certainly more aware now of the impact of moped crime.”
The former Enfield borough commander, who has a doctorate in criminal justice and has worked across the Met for the last 25 years, also spoke about the dedicated gang units in both boroughs.
Islington’s integrated gangs team, run alongside the council, is even based in the Tolpuddle Street station.
Earlier this month, Supt Nick Davies told a national newspaper threatening to evict families linked to gangs – as a last resort – was an effective strategy, and Dr Raphael agreed.
“It is a last resort,” he said. “It’s a good deterrent.”
Speaking more broadly about the work the gangs teams do, he added: “When you look at knife crime, it’s disproportionately BME [black and minority ethnic] individuals both as victims and offenders. It’s hard to say but it is there.
“Criminologists will always talk about: what are the factors that led to the course of events? You’re more likely to be from a poorer background and have a single family upbringing. You are less likely to see aspirations in education, and that for me is where we’ve all got a part to play in this solution.
“The point police get involved it’s almost too late. There is still opportunities at that time for diversionary activity but actually the time a 14-year-old kid decides to take a knife out with them society has let that individual down. We need to get in early.
“We identify those who are potentially at threat of becoming a gang member and look at things like their housing, their job opportunities, their education. Things like the Ben Kinsella Trust, ex-offenders talking to them. They now talk about when is the best age to intervene? And often it’s that last year before you go from primary to secondary school, so it’s getting younger and younger.”
Dr Raphael has also made some changes internally. He makes sure there is a chief inspector on duty every weekend and has given staff three priorities: combating violent crime, safeguarding children and reducing the number of people on the “wanted” list.
Det Ch Insp Iain Raphael said there was “some credibility” to Finsbury Park being a key area in the exporting of stolen mobile phones.
Last week Jan Tucker of the Junction safer neighbourhoods team claimed the area was at the centre of the trade. Dr Raphael elaborated on what happens to the phones stolen by moped crooks. “They are worth a couple of hundred quid when they go abroad,” he said. “Your iPhone will have a kill switch that can shut it down but it doesn’t work worldwide. It’s a business.”
In terms of targeting the high-level criminals, Dr Raphael was tight lipped. But he added: “The ultimate way we’ll stop it is if mopeds are harder to steal. At the moment it’s comparatively easy to steal a moped. You can just force a bike and break the lock. It should be harder. I think they will make them harder to steal, but it’s got to be in their business model. I used to work in Scotland Yard with phones and we published a theft index with the most stolen handset. That encourages them to change.”