London gun crime: Gangs fuel vicious cycle of violence – Met

Image description, The Metropolitan Police said 386 firearms were seized in the capital last year.

  • Author, Sonja Jessup
  • Role, BBC Home Affairs Correspondent in London

About one firearm is seized every day on London's streets, with gangs fuelling a “vicious cycle of violence” involving money, drugs and firearms, a London Metropolitan Police commander said.

According to Cdr Paul Brogden, gangs or organised crime were involved in over half of the shootings in the capital. The weapons were used to control areas or threaten debtors.

Recent figures from the ONS show that there has been an overall increase in firearms crime in London, from 1,009 crimes in the year to December 2022 to 1,208 crimes in the same period last year.

However, Cdr Brogden said the number of “fatal discharges” in which a weapon is fired has been at its lowest level in 15 years since March 2023 – compared to 145 recorded incidents in the same period last year, down from 196.

Deadly shootings in London The number of murders has also declined over the past three years, from 15 to nine last year.

According to the ONS, there were 29 firearm homicides in England and Wales in the years up to March 2023, one more than the previous year.

Image description, Almost half of the firearms seized in London last year were modified weapons, according to police

Nevertheless, several incidents in recent years in which bystanders were injured in shootings have raised public concern.

In March, two women were injured by shotgun pellets in Clapham when a moped rider being pursued by police fired a gun. And in January last year, four women and two children were injured when a sawed-off shotgun was fired into a crowd of mourners attending a memorial service in Euston.

Referring to the Dalston shooting, Cdr Brogdan said: “The likelihood of becoming a victim of firearms crime in London is very low, but there are always completely innocent victims who get caught in the crossfire.”

He explained that criminals were increasingly using modified weapons that were originally designed to fire blank cartridges.

Of the 386 firearms seized in the capital last year, 46 percent were modified weapons.

The blank-firing guns are often sold legally for use in theater productions or in agriculture, but they fall into the hands of criminals and are illegally converted into deadly weapons.

“Fear and lack of trust”

But although police say more and more people are being brought to court for gun crimes and the crime clearance rate is at its highest in eleven years, almost half of all crimes last year went unprosecuted.

According to Det Supt Tim Mustoe, one of the biggest challenges is that many investigations begin with a conversation with an injured gang member in hospital who does not want contact with the police.

“Fear and lack of trust can create barriers for people to engage with us,” he said.

Cdr Brogden added that gathering intelligence and building community confidence was an important part of tackling gun crime.

Image description, During a raid, a weapon was found in a child's drawer

One of the perpetrators arrested last year was 44-year-old Danny Butler.

He was sentenced to 18 years in prison after six weapons, as well as ammunition and drugs, were found at his home in Lambeth, where he lived with his family, including an 18-month-old baby.

Officers said they found three handguns, one of which was loaded, in a drawer containing children's clothing. They found another handgun and a sawed-off pump action shotgun in a closet.

Det Supt Victoria Sullivan said when criminals try to hide weapons they often look for someone who will not come to police attention and who can be paid or pressured to help them.

“They are targeting vulnerable people in our communities and exploiting them even more. It's really sad to see,” she said.

Image description, Danny Butler was jailed last year after six weapons were found in his home

Earlier this month, he told the London Policing Board that the police would prioritise tackling serious violence, including violence against women and girls.

It was previously reported earlier this year that the number of detectives in homicide squads may need to be reduced to address recruitment shortages and ensure the most experienced officers are distributed across the force.

Despite this, Cdr Brogden said there had been no cuts and he was “very pleased” with the resources available to solve murder cases, adding that the teams included “extremely experienced detectives”.