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Armed police in ‘high-risk’ raid of suspected gun supply gang

Written by on 9 September 2020

Armed police have launched a major operation to tackle gun crime in the capital.

Several hundred officers raided a travellers’ site in southeast London and arrested a number of suspects police believe have been involved in supplying firearms to criminal gangs.

In the largest police operation of its type in recent years, officers entered the camp in Orpington shortly before 3am.

Sky News was granted exclusive access to follow the operation, as dozens of armed teams, including Scotland Yard’s elite Counter Terrorism Specialist Firearms Officers, used flash-bang distraction devices to enter buildings and static caravans on the site.

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It was the largest police operation of its type in recent years

The armed units were supported by hundreds of other officers from the Metropolitan Police’s TSG public order unit and local officers from the area’s safer neighbourhood team.

So far, police have made seven arrests and detailed searches of the site and surrounding land are likely to continue throughout the day.

Commander Kyle Gordon, in charge of the Metropolitan Police’s firearm’s command, oversaw the raids from Scotland Yard’s Special Operations Centre in central London.

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He said the operation was “high risk” and required significant police resources to ensure the site could be safely contained.

“There’s a lot of fast-moving parts in an operation like this. But to see the teams operating the way they have, collaboratively in order to go in and achieve their objectives, has been something I’ve been really pleased to see.

“We’ve managed to get onto the site. We now have control of the site and we’ve located a number of the individuals that we were looking to speak to and they’re now going to be helping with this ongoing investigation.”

As armed and unarmed officers poured into the site, images from the operation were relayed live to the command centre by a police helicopter and a police drone.

The raids follow a worrying spike in gun crime in the capital since the lifting of the lockdown.

In July, there were 40 shootings in London, compared to 24 for the same period in 2019.

In 2019, police seized 303 firearms capable of lethal discharges. So far in 2020, 178 firearms have been seized in the capital, despite a general drop in violent crime during the four months of lockdown.

Commander Gordon said: “Violent crime is the Met’s number one priority, we’ve been clear on that objective and this is the sort of operation that we need to be doing to tackle violence in the capital.

“One of the things around this operation is that we’re looking to get to the supply of weapons and ammunition that’s used on the streets of London and get them at source, to actually stop them getting onto the streets in the first place and into the hands of criminals in the first place.”

The commander said initial intelligence, which sparked the major operation and plans for the raids had come from local officers in Orpington, part of the Met’s Safer Neighbourhood team in that area.

“The strength of safer neighbourhood teams is that they do work with local partners and with local communities.

“They’re aware of what normal should look like within their areas and whenever they become aware of information and intelligence within the area that points to issues of real harm on the streets, they’ll raise that and we’ll be able to get resources to them to respond to those issues.”

The raids were disruptive for a while, with local residents reporting multiple loud bangs and the noise of the police helicopter in the early hours.

But police believe the operation has been vital and has made a significant dent on the supply of lethal firearms across the capital.

Those arrested have been taken into custody for questioning, while specialist teams continue to search the static caravans and other property, as well as land adjacent to the site.