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Saturday, 23 March 2013
Scrapping Trident 'Could Lead To Chaos'
Activists say the newly-formed unit will not be as effective
Written by Jermaine Haughton
23/03/2013 11:50 AM
NEW GOALS: The launch of Trident Gang Command in February 2012
THE MURDER investigation unit of London’s Operation Trident has been disbanded, sparking fears the dedicated task force is on the verge of extinction.
Trident, part of the Metropolitan Police, was set up in 1998 specifically to target gun killings within the black community.
The changes mean all “black-on-black” gun killings and London murder cases will be transferred to Scotland Yard’s main homicide and serious crime division taking away Trident’s core function, according to critics.
Claudia Webbe, co-founder and former chair of Operation Trident’s Independent Advisory Group, believes the changes will deteriorate the unit’s position in the black community.
Webbe said: “The lack of foresight by the current leadership of the MPS (Metropolitan Police Service), the mayor (of London) and his advisors now mean that the strength of the Trident brand within the black community is now weakened and its previous successes will become a thing of the past.”
According to Lee Jasper, co-founder of Operation Trident, the latest restructuring is just the latest punitive change to deplete Operation Trident’s work.
Jasper argued that “since 2008, we have seen the year-on-year demise of Operation Trident. It has no credibility. Constant interfering and changes have turned Operation Trident into a shell of its former self.
“Unfortunately, we have moved no further forward (in Operation Trident’s goals). The number of murders has decreased but violence has increased.
“Parents are still scared of their children’s safety. The fear of crime is higher than ever before and we need a strong Trident.”
Operation Trident was launched after a decade-long rise in gun shootings in inner-city London, with 90 per cent of all homicide victims being black – particularly black males.
Running regular public meetings and talks in schools and colleges, Trident targeted the suppliers of guns and worked to re-establish trust in the police.
Jasper said: “Trident provided greater trust in the police, raised awareness and provided a safety net for more people from the community to give evidence and thus led to the gradual year-on-year reduction in gun crime.
According to him, “the low crime figures we see now, came about due to years of hard work, so to move away from that is crazy.”
A year ago, Trident was restructured to focus more intently on gang-related crime due to a substantial drop in fatal shootings in the capital to just five in 2012.
Webbe said: “The police use of the term gangs provides a dangerous shortcut to understanding youth conflict.
“There is no attempt to understand the broader and more complex social, cultural, economic and political context of ‘youth violence’ and the wider societal role and responsibility.”
The Met has dismissed claims that the newly-named Trident Gang Command is redundant. It said the shift in focus from using the weapon used in a crime to determine which department investigates is the right move.
But Steve Rodhouse, commander for gangs and organised crime, said: “I do recognise that Trident Gang Command has developed some significant experience around these investigations and has also developed good relationships with some of our BME communities most affected by gun crime.
“This expertise will not be lost and will still be available to investigators.”
Lee Jasper believes Operation Trident has fallen victim to government cuts, supported by London mayor Boris Johnson.
He claims current Met Police commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, lacks the will to oppose the changes.
“In my day, (Sir Ian) Blair and (Sir John) Stevens would have battled to keep police officers on the streets. Boris (Johnson) doesn’t seem to realise, or care, that cutting police officers equals chaos on the streets,” he argued, warning that “all hell will break loose, and this is why Trident is important.”