Police plan of armed patrols would turn residential streets into 'battlegrounds' say critics

Armed police pictured on patrol in London earlier this year (PA)
Armed police pictured on patrol in London earlier this year (PA)

Scotland Yard plans for armed police patrols risk turning residential streets “into armed battlegrounds”, according to David Lammy.

The MP for Tottenham has today slammed the tactic, which would only be used at times of an imminent threat of gang violence, describing it as “an attempt to put out fire with fire”.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said it would only be deployed in “extreme circumstances” to support the force’s largely unarmed officers in tackling violence.

David Lammy MP (PA)
David Lammy MP (PA)

A Met email said armed patrols could be initiated “based on an informed and reliable intelligence picture of where gang activity is likely”, according to reports.

Ms Dick told the London Assembly’s police and crime committee on Thursday that armed officers could be deployed if “something truly ghastly” is imminent.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick (PA)
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick (PA)

Labour’s Mr Lammy said: “The Met’s plans are an attempt to put out fire with fire. Officers patrolling with weapons will only increase fear and distrust of the police in those communities on the front line of gang violence. This risks turning our streets into armed battlegrounds.

“The way to tackle violent crime is by going after the international gangsters fuelling it. Instead of going after the key drivers of crime, this measure mistakenly focuses on the kids on the street who are being used as foot soldiers.”

Assistant Commissioner Sir Stephen House had stressed that the force was not considering “routine deployments of armed officers in our communities”.

“As part of our response to the increase in violent crime in London, we are examining how our armed officers can provide extra support and augment other units, either in response to a serious assault, or to be deployed to areas where we have intelligence that serious violence is imminent,” he added.

Labour’s Lord Harris of Haringey, who has advised London Mayor Sadiq Khan, told the House of Lords he was not convinced the move would be helpful.

“It would be seen as provocative. It will inspire fear rather than reassurance. It will hinder community confidence and do little in itself to reduce the number of violent incidents,” he said.

“It would be more positive to maintain or even enhance schools liaison and engagement work.”

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Mr Khan warned that armed officers on the streets must remain a rarity.

“The mayor is crystal clear that armed officers on London’s streets must be the exception and cannot become the norm. He would expect full consultation on any decisions of this nature,” a spokesman said.

Gang violence is a serious concern for police, with a spate of stabbings in London.

There have been more than 120 homicides in the capital so far this year, already surpassing the tally for all of 2017.

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