|Running towards drugs raid flat|
Round the back of the housing block was a plastic see through bag containing what must have been thousands of pounds of pure white coloured crystals, hurled from the third floor of the block of flats. The individuals inside, one man and two women, had been alerted to the raid by the full scale CCTV system they had rigged up which transmitted pictures of anyone coming near the front door to a screen inside their laboratory-front room.
|Outside drugs flat waiting for entry|
|CCTV used to spot Police|
|Weapons from drugs flat|
Prior to each of these raids we received an intelligence briefing which gave something of the backgrounds of the suspects, all of whom had recorded involvement in a variety of violent offences, some of which were on the very serious end of the spectrum. These were people who were potentially dangerous and certainly difficult. As if to illustrate this the house with the dog also turned up a stun-gun – which is a handheld device that is pressed against the victim before discharging a potentially lethal electric charge. Nice. It put the bag of cannabis they also found into perspective, and was taken off to be analysed as evidence.
|A bag of Crystal Meth - thrown from the window above|
And those fingertip searches? I asked the officer doing them whether he worried about coming into contact with needles – these were drug raids after all. He shrugged his shoulders – you need to do it, he said.
These are the things that the Safer Neighbourhood Team do on our streets with no fanfare but with every day exposure to risk that the rest of us would run a mile from. And yet these are also the people that are facing the brunt of some of the cuts we’ve all been hearing about. The Government, and to some extent our Council, talk about there being no “front line” cuts. And to some extent the figures back them up – the Shepherd’s Bush team has gone from 5 sergeants, 15 Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) and 10 Constables to 2 Sergeants, 6 PCSOs and 18 Constables. So in a sense that is a good news story – but what about that reduction from 5 Sergeants to 2?
|Arrest being made|
|En route to raid on White City Estate|
And hang on a minute, what is the fabled “front-line” anyway? It sounds straightforward but one of the reasons politicians use it a lot is surely because it is meaningless. What about the specialist door breakers, are they “front line”? Probably not, but the raids wouldn’t have happened without them and there would still be those drugs on our street. And the dog handlers, are they “front line”? Again, no – but if you’d seen that angry canine bristling with aggression and muscle you’d have understood that the raid wouldn’t have happened without them either, the dogs are frequently used as weapons against the Police.
|On our way to a raid near QPR|
|White City drugs raid|
“I find this starving of resources for people that are willing to do a job for our streets, dealing with utmost humanity to a terminally ill alcoholic on the Green one minute and then a lippy violent drunk the next, not to mention the paperwork and the potential for knives and other dangers, an absolute scandal. More on that to come, I intend to take it up with the Council”.I did take it up, and in fairness the Council should rightly be praised for having responded. That Saturday night in June I was shocked to find they had to rely on a battered old van with no blue lights and a sliding door that had to be closed gently – in case it fell off its hinges.
|Samurai sword taken from drugs raid flat|
But on cutting Police Sergeants – next time you hear a politician either in H&F, or the Mayor or the Home Secretary herself talk about the “front line” being protected, remember that there is no such thing. The world of policing just isn’t that simple, and for every Sergeant or so-called “non frontline” specialist gone there are crimes and criminals that go undetected.
28.06.12 UPDATE - I learned during more time with the same team today that the man arrested at this flat received a sentence of 3.5 years. Which means he will be out in 12 months or so. What was instructive was my reaction "only 3 years"?! contrasted with that of the Police, who had been quite pleased.