A HIGH-PROFILE police crackdown was launched across the capital last week as the Metropolitan Police stepped up its self-titled 'war on crime'. Chronicle reporter Greg Burns took to the streets with Hammersmith and Fulham officers to see the borough's team in action.
AS I WATCHED the door of a suspected drug dealer get smashed in by police I got the feeling it was going to be a bad day to be a criminal in Hammersmith and Fulham.
And so it proved.
It was just past 4pm last Thursday (23/11) and I joined officers from Shepherd's Bush safer neighbourhood team (SNT) as they headed out from their Uxbridge Road base and towards a known drugs den which has been raided countless times in the past.
I call it a den but it was, in fact, anything but. I will come back to that later.
The raid was one of many carried out across the borough each week as police continue targeting dealers in their war trying to stop Class A drugs like heroin and crack cocaine pouring onto the streets.
But this one was part of a London-wide initiative across all 32 boroughs called Operation Hawk.
Called for by the the new Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe, it saw 4,000 SNTs deployed to act on information passed to them by concerned residents throughout London.
Mr Hogan-Howe said: “It is a renewed emphasis on Safer Neighbourhood Teams making the most of local intelligence and acting on it.”
I have been on raids like this in the past. They normally involve waking up at the crack of dawn and watching as a startled sleeper is woken by the raiding police.
But this time we headed out in the afternoon and parked up around the corner of the suspected three-storey home.
With CCTV believed to be in use by the suspects, officers raced towards the house followed by the sound of the door being caved in.
The smell of cannabis drifted out into the street and eight people were quickly handcuffed, ready for questioning.
As I approached the house, I expected to find a run-down, squalid pit.
Instead, it was a run-of-the-mill family house. Pictures of children in school uniform were on the walls and everyone inside had politely taken their shoes off at the front door.
The carpets were immaculate and the living room was adorned with a mammoth plasma television screen. The only thing that set it apart from any other normal house was the TV screen in the kitchen flashing CCTV footage of down the street and onto the front door.
It was a far cry from the tatty squats I have seen raided in the past and mainly used as places to take drugs.
And it signalled, to me, a shift in police focus towards those who are profiting from the sale of drugs. The people at the top.
Unfortunately, barring small quantities of cannabis found, police were left frustrated by this recent raid but the message had been sent.
Sergeant Finbar King, of Shepherd's Bush SNT, said: “It is about letting them know that we won't stop. And letting the community know that we will be pro-active.
“If they tell us about something we will investigate it and, if necessary, take action.”
Operation Hawk patrols across the borough also saw a man arrested for drug offences in Parsons Green, while police joined council officers in patrolling parks for dangerous dogs.
Estates were sweeped for weapons with two knives found in Wood Lane Estate while a knife arch at Shepherd's Bush Market saw two arrests.
Chief superintendent Lucy D'Orsi, borough commander, said: “The communities in wards all across H&F are likely to see more operations of this kind from our SNTs who, through their ongoing engagement, will continue to address local crime and safety concerns to help make our local areas safer.”
But while video and photos of Mayor of London Boris Johnson on a south London raid dominated the headlines and were beamed across the capital, local officers were quick to point out that this sort of community policing is an everyday thing in H&F.
Chief inspector Nigel Crane, in charge of SNTs in the borough, said: “I am proud to say that this approach of dealing with root-problems rather than treating just the symptoms is already an embedded 'business as usual' approach by highly motivated and innovative teams in H&F.”
To find out more about your SNT visit www.met.police.uk/saferneighbourhoods. In an emergency always call 999.