Sunday, November 21, 2010
The police unit dedicated to investigating violent crime in London's black communities is at risk of being disbanded because of government cuts
Operation Trident, set up to tackle a rise in gun attacks among London's African-Caribbean community, may be merged with other Metropolitan police crime squads following the comprehensive spending review. A high-ranking officer raised that possibility at a meeting of Trident's independent advisory group, a senior police source said. Operation Trident was set up in 1998 in response to the murders of Avril Johnson, a DJ from south London, and Michelle Carby, from east London, who were gunned down in their homes. The killings came amid fears of a wave of gang-related violence linked to crack cocaine trafficking and a more aggressive gun culture. Officers were finding the cases difficult to investigate as fear of reprisals meant witnesses were afraid to come forward, and there was a general distrust of the police. The unit, the first of its kind in Britain, was established to help officers in local police stations investigate shootings and collate intelligence from across the capital on suspected gunmen, firearms suppliers and gun converters. It now has 350 investigative officers and 98 support staff. Since April 2010, it has investigated 224 shootings, including 12 murders. Over the past 12 years, the unit has conducted more than 300 successful investigations, including the conviction in 2004 of Owen Clark, aka Father Fowl – a drug kingpin whose operation, involving crack cocaine and gun crime, stretched from north-west London to the Caribbean. Tactics used by the unit have been reportedly transferred to other cities including Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol and Liverpool. All police forces are facing a 20% cut in funding following the spending review.