Gun criminals being targeted by armed Met Police in ‘Operation Viper’

Met Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe and recovered firearms

Met Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe and recovered firearms - Credit: MPS

An armed police operation is being launched to tackle London’s gun crime in areas like the East End with the highest levels of firearms being used by gangs.

Cashe of guns taken off streets of London

Cashe of guns taken off streets of London - Credit: MPS

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe has launched Operation Viper to meet head-on a recent spike in the number of firearm incidents.

“I’m concerned about the increase and am determined to stop it,” Sir Bernard said. “We will use all our powers to take on the gunmen and those that supply them.

“Using firearms thankfully is still rare in London and rarely affects those not involved in crime.”

A crack team of 50 Gang Crime Command officers and detectives from the Met’s Organised Crime Command are joining uniformed Task Force officers including the Territorial Support Group—backed by Scotland Yard’s Armed Response unit.

Automatic gun seized by police

Automatic gun seized by police - Credit: MPS

The officers are patrolling in ‘priority’ areas where most gun incidents happen, working with local police.

Half these areas are in three east London boroughs, Tower Hamlets and neighbouring Hackney and Newham, as well as areas in Lambeth, Southwark and Brent.

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Hotspot neighbourhoods include Bromley-by-Bow, Hackney, Stoke Newington, Brixton, Camberwell and Halesden.

Proactive tactics are aimed at getting firearms off the streets and making it harder for gangs to get hold of guns.

These tactics include high-visibility armed patrols, weapon sweeps and stop-and-search based on tip-offs.

Officers are targetting known firearms offenders, making arrests and searching premises.

But the operation is also aimed at educating young people about the dangers of carrying firearms.

Yet despite the rise in gun crime, things are better than 2011 when there were 377 gun incidents recorded.

This year it is 122 so far, compared to 226 for the whole of 2015.

The Met Police took the highest number of weapons off the streets of London last year, with 714 firearms recovered, including some found in sweeps at Bromley-by-Bow.

Commander Duncan Ball, in charge of the Met’s Gangs and Organised Crime, said: “At least half the shootings in London are related to drugs. We are nowhere near the levels five years ago—but it’s our job to keep it that way.”

The number of killings are low, he pointed out—but even “one death is one too many”.