Ex-Borough Commander warns Hackney’s gang unit is ‘stretched’

Chief Supt Steve Bending

Chief Supt Steve Bending - Credit: chief supt steve bending - hackn

Hackney’s former Borough Commander Steve Bending has warned about cuts to the gangs unit in Hackney, meaning there are less officers on the ground aware of the tensions around different gangs.

Operation Bantam, a proactive response unit for gun and gang crime, has been disbanded and a team of 40 officers responsible for gang related incidents has been reduced to just six.

More police are urgently needed to tackle growing levels of crime in Hackney, including gang activity and violence, Hackney Council has said, and has launched a campaign demanding 100 more officers back on the borough’s streets.

Along with the Gazette, Mr Bending who is head of community safety at the council, is backing the campaign, after crippling cuts reduced officers in the borough to just 597 from 770 five years ago.

There were no gang related murders in Hackney between April 2010 – when Agnes Sina-Inakoju was shot in a Hoxton takeaway – and February 2013, when Joseph Burke-Monerville was shot in a parked car in Lower Clapton.

But last month 17-year old teenager Marcel Addai was stabbed to death by a gang in Hoxton and three weeks later Moses Fadairo was shot in Chatsworth Road.

Mr Bending, who left his post as Borough Commander in December 2011 to share his knowledge of working with gangs at the Met’s Trident gangs unit, told the Gazette: “Incidents like this bring home to people the impact of gang related violence.

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“Resources are stretched now – there is no doubt about that at all.”

He added: “It’s difficult to argue there’s a direct correlation that a drop in police officers leads to gang violence, but you need resources to do what you want to do in policing.

“If you have a core and resilient number of local officers who have an understanding of tensions around the different gangs, who know who the gang members are and have a degree of rapport with them, you have an ability at an early stage to begin to reduce tensions between gangs, and then prevent violence from happening. And at some point you run the risk of that process not being as effective as it could be.

“Operation Trident is supportive of work in the borough, but it’s important to have that balance of local knowledge and operational expertise.

“The challenge is when there are less officers, it’s clear there are occasions when they would like to help but are unable to.”

The council claims the formula used by the Met to calculate how many police are needed in Hackney is out-of-date, misguided, and needs to be revised.

The Met’s decision to cut the police force in the borough was based on a one-year snapshot including crime figures taken from 2010/11, when they were at an all-time low in Hackney.

Mr Bending warned that impending cuts to the Met’s budget, which are predicted to be between 25 to 40 per cent over the next four years, could disadvantage Hackney even further.

He said: “I suppose I count myself fortunate to have been Borough Commander when there were so many officers and there was the ability to target the resources that needed to be done.

“I would feel really challenged to deal on performance with 600 officers.”

To sign the petition go to http://chn.ge/1jcLa7C, or sign a paper copy at the Town Hall in Mare Street.