23:07 GMT28 February 2021
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    UK Gang Violence (22)
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    London saw big reductions in knife crime and other forms of violence in 2020. There was a 16 percent reduction in homicides and a 27 percent fall in knife crime.

    Detectives in London noticed an increase in violence after the COVID-19 restrictions were lifted in 2020 and are bracing themselves for a similar spike when the current lockdown is lifted.

    Commander Jane Connors, the Metropolitan Police’s lead for violent crime, told a media briefing on Tuesday, 26 January: "Some of the gang tensions which had been playing out on social media during the lockdown and afterwards we started to see an increase in activity."

    ​Commander Dave McLaren said that when they investigated the discharge of firearms in 2020 they could often see that retrospectively there was a “social media footprint” which led to these events.

    He said they were now keeping an eye on “patterns of behaviour on social media” which he hoped would help them to keep ahead of the violence when Britain comes out of the current lockdown, which may not be until late February or even March.

    On Monday, 25 January, a young man was stabbed in a gang-related murder in Islington, north London, and Cmdr Connors referred to it as an “absolute tragedy.”

    Replying to a question from Sputnik, Cmdr McLaren said there was intelligence to suggest the supply of drugs had gone down during 2020 as restrictions on flights made it harder to get them into the UK.

    But he said Operation Venetic - a national initiative targeting criminals using Encrochat encryption devices - had led to the discovery of 988 kilos of hard drugs and 284 kilos of Class B drugs in London alone.

    He said: “There are significant supplies of drugs but the reduced supply does possess portential for growing tensions, especially given that these are dangerous individuals who are involved.”

    ​Despite the overall reduction in violence, the number of firearms discharges had gone up from 266 to 288 but the Met pointed out this was because 2019 was a “historic 11-year low” point.

    Cmdr McLaren said London was responsible for 43 percent of all firearms discharges in Britain but he said they also recovered 50 percent of all guns.

    Sergeant Keeley Tye said her team, the Violence Intervention Unit, had served four gang injunctions and 100 criminal behaviour orders but had also helped some young people on the fringe of gangs to get jobs and keep away from dangerous behaviour.

    Cmdr Connors said that although the pandemic had given the force a significant challenge the police still had “tackling violence” as their number one priority.

    She said special Violence Suppression Units launched in May had made more than 3,200, seized more than 640 knives and guns and carried out 2,000 search warrants.

    The briefing also heard that the number of domestic homicides had risen during the lockdown from 16 to 22 and the number of child victims had gone up from seven to 12.

    ​One of these was Dylan Freeman, 10, who was killed by his Russian-born mother, Olga, in Acton, west London in August.

    Dylan had severe autism and needed 24-hour care and had been attending a special school five days a week.

    Mrs Freeman, who had been suffering from depression and was displaying “psychotic symptoms”, pleaded guilty to manslaughter due to diminished responsibility on Monday 25 January.

    Prosecutor Joel Smith told the court: “During the lockdown he was not able to attend school, the burden of care had fallen more heavily on the defendant.”

    A review is being conducted to examine whether the lockdown - and her son’s withdrawal from school - contributed to the events leading to his death.

    Cmdr McLaren said: “The lockdown has had an impact on all of us and it will have impacted on the mental health of individuals. We will have to see the outcome of those reviews before we can draw a conclusion.”   


    UK Gang Violence (22)
    COVID-19, lockdown, social media, London, gangs
    Community standardsDiscussion