Romford anti-violent crime operation: Reporter joins police on patrol targeting offenders coming into Havering
PUBLISHED: 07:00 17 June 2019 | UPDATED: 09:33 17 June 2019
There has been a spike in violent crime and robberies taking place in Romford over the past six months. Reporter April Roach was invited to join the police on an operation targeting offenders coming into the borough.
It was a busy night for the Romford town centre police team as they recovered cannabis from people acting suspiciously and assisted with two medical emergencies on Thursday, June 13.
Before the operation began at 3pm, I sat down with inspector Rob McElroy, to find out more.
"Our priority is to stop these travelling offenders from targeting people in our area," said the neighbourhood inspector.
"They will often stop a young person on their way home from school and demand their iPhone. Then they'll use the money to buy McDonald's for all of their friends."
The aim of the operation was to set up a knife arch outside the McDonald's in The Brewery and South Street, and provide additional resources to any crimes taking place in the area.
Members of the public were curious about the knife arch and are happy to walk through. It's the people who look like they're trying to dodge the arch that the police are sceptical of.
Two teenagers are caught filming the officers and swearing at them.
Pc Rosie Bennett said: "They're old enough to know better.
"We often find that when we stop people who are acting like this, we'll encounter them again later on in the night after they've been involved in a robbery or another crime."
The 17-year-olds were told to leave the area and were banned from returning to the town centre area for the next 48 hours under the Section 35 Dispersal Act.
The rest of the shift passed quickly as the team responded to several incidents while on patrol.
A man tried to outrun police after he was spotted handing a cigarette to another man in a drug dealing hotspot in Regarth Avenue.
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While Pc Emma Morris stopped the first suspect, other officers chased after the second man. After a quick search they discovered he had a small bag of cannabis.
He was issued with a community resolution which acts as a warning for offenders who commit less serious crimes.
The officers worked efficiently and quickly as they assisted a woman having a panic attack in South Street by taking her to Queen's Hospital in Rom Valley Way.
A man driving in a strange manner was stopped and found to be driving without a licence in a car that didn't belong to him and an elderly man suffering from a blood illness was also assisted by members of the town centre team.
At the end of the shift Pc Jackson let me take part in acting out a 'hidden seek' with Callie, a general purpose police dog.
She's trained to find weapons and suspects - anything with a human trace. Some of the officers were surprised that I was willing to let a German Shepherd hunt me down, however after seeing Callie at work with Pc Jackson earlier, I was confident I wouldn't be harmed.
It took her less than a minute to find where I was hiding behind some trolleys in a car park. She stopped a short distance from where I was standing and barked loudly to direct her handler where I was.
Pc Morris explained how Callie helped the officers locate a suspect's shoe and discarded sword last week.
"She also helps deescalate a situation," said Pc Morris.
"Last week we were searching a group of suspects who were starting to become aggressive. As soon as Callie started barking, they calmed down instantly."
The police officers were incredibly quick to spot repeat offenders and known troublemakers throughout the operation.
In Knightsbridge Gardens, the team stopped a group of young men who are known gang members from Lewisham.
While they weren't found to be carrying any drugs or weapons at the time, the search means that the men were aware of a police presence in the area.
I soon realised that the knife arch and patrol served two main purposes.
Not only does it allow police officers to search potential carriers of dangerous weapons and remove suspects from the area, but it lets the public know that they're out there, working to tackle the issue of knife crime.