Coronavirus: Police in east London ‘more proactive’ following Covid-19 outbreak, senior officer says

Det Ch Supt Stephen Clayman of East Area Command. Picture: PA

Det Ch Supt Stephen Clayman of East Area Command. Picture: PA - Credit: PA

The Covid-19 pandemic has allowed police in east London to be “more proactive”, a senior officer has revealed.

Detective Chief Superintendent Stephen Clayman, who heads up the East Area BCU, said the Met had launched a violence suppression unit in Barking and Dagenham, Havering and Redbridge.

It is part of a Londonwide initiative announced by the force earlier this month to target violent crime.

Det Ch Supt Clayman revealed the 18-strong team made more than 30 arrests in their first ten days.

He said: ”This BCU like others has now invested in violence suppression which I think is really important and that is going to continue - that’s a dedicated asset.

“As the coronavirus restrictions are eased, we’re really keen to make sure that we tackle violence - it’s our number one priority.”

The commander added that the unit are attending “micro hot spots” across east London over the coming weeks and doing weapon sweeps.

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They have also been visiting violent offenders, mostly young people, in a bid to encourage them to “change lifestyle”.

Det Ch Supt Clayman said: “During the lockdown, where activity has been less, this is a point to reflect and change your lifestyle.

“It’s as much about the conversation that takes place with them, that recognition that there is a time to change because the effect this has on your family and friends is great.

“You won’t change everyone, but hopefully you change a few and that has a dramatic impact.

“These are predominantly young people where we think they definitely have the option to change direction which is why we are going to give them the opportunity to change by working with people that can help them.”

“So we are working in close collaboration with each local authority and signposting them into activities that are already ready for them.”

This paper reported last month that crime across the three boroughs had dropped 30 per cent in the three weeks from March 23 compared to the same time in 2019.

Det Ch Supt Clayman said: “The interesting thing about this whole period is anti-social behaviour type calls, that is social distancing type calls, have definitely increased. Our emergency calls haven’t necessarily decreased dramatically but the type of calls have.

“It has given our teams more capacity to be more proactive.

“The number of arrests we are making has gone up rather than down, it’s been really positive. We are tackling violence, we’re arresting people, we’re charging people so our activity hasn’t let up.

“We know what the drivers of violent crime are and we’re looking at those drivers. Whether that’s people dealing drugs, which is a driver for violence, we will look at drug dealing. We’ll focus on the areas of the boroughs we know are hot spots for violence. It’s allowed us to focus a bit more activity on where we want to.”

Prime minister Boris Johnson lifted lockdown restrictions earlier this month, allowing people to exercise whenever they like and meet someone from another household outside while maintaining social distancing. An announcement yesterday (May 28) extended this to up to six people at a time.

The Government also plans to open schools from June 1 and non-essential shops from June 15.

Det Ch Supt Clayman said the force will not be changing its approach as restrictions are eased.

He added: “It is a different dynamic for us when you have got people allowed to exercise more freely, visit someone from another household. But clearly if you’ve got large groups that shouldn’t really be happening. So we will still be talking to people and dispersing people. We will look at the situation and assess it before we go in and start talking to people.”

He also urged anyone “feeling trapped” and at risk of domestic abuse to call police and go through helplines to get the help they need.

This paper reported that, between March 31 and April 12, reports of domestic abuse offences across the three boroughs increased by around a quarter and Det Ch Supt Clayman said this trend has not changed.

He added: “The quicker we act on domestic abuse, the more successful our outcomes are. For a victim of domestic abuse, it’s a terrible situation for them and they need to be able to trust what we can do to help.”

Anyone affected by domestic abuse can contact the National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247.