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Camden News - by PAUL KEILTHY
Published: 16 July 2009
Stop and search ‘gangs’ crackdown

Police use extra powers as councillor acknowledges serious problems after double shooting

POLICE have used blanket stop-and-search powers across a swathe of the borough to prevent gang reprisals following two shootings in housing estates in which three young men were wounded.
Senior officers played down suspicions over the involvement of organised gangs in the shootings of two teenagers in Ainsworth Way, South Hampstead, last Tuesday, and a 20-year-old man found in Gillies Street, Gospel Oak, the Sunday before.
But the use of Section 60 powers, under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, which allow police to stop and search anyone without having the need for “reasonable grounds”, can only be authorised “on the basis of a reasonable belief that incidents involving serious violence may take place or that people are carrying dangerous instruments or offensive weapons in the area without good reason.”
The use of the order, which had to be renewed every 24 hours by Camden operations chief Superintendent Roger Smalley, for four consecutive days is believed to be unprecedented in Camden.
The area covered by the powers includes Swiss Cottage, Belsize Park, South Hampstead, Kilburn, Gospel Oak, and Haverstock.
Although both incidents are being investigated by the Met’s Operation Trident, which specialises in gun-crime and has a reputation for tackling gangs, the Ainsworth Way incident has the strongest evidence of gang involvement.
According to witnesses, a group of masked men walked into the estate during the late evening and challenged some teenagers gathered near the entrance of Fielding House, asking: “Who is ASA?”
They then fired three shots from a handgun, wounding two youths in the legs and pistol-whipping a third, police believe.
The “ASA”, which according to some accounts stands for Angry Street Army, is one of three street gangs which police intelligence reports state operate in the Kilburn and Swiss Cottage areas.
The councillor in charge of the Town Hall’s anti-crime policy, James King, said: “We know there has been an increase in anti-social behaviour involving young people in the Alexandria and Ainsworth estate in recent months,” he said. “It is one of the areas where we’ve got issues with gangs and there are a lot of resources going into it.”
Last week, the council approved a new dispersal zone in the area, where police can break up groups of two or more people and ban them from the area for 24 hours. Dispersal authority combined with the ability to stop and search residents at will granted by Section 60 gave Camden officers the highest level of police powers in Britain for periods of last week.

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