More than 850 of Britain’s most dangerous wanted criminals have been rounded up and arrested in just three months, in the biggest operation of its kind for a generation.
Scotland Yard has spent the last three and a half months arresting 873 “high harm” offenders who were wanted for violence or known to have a history of violence.
Some had fled abroad, others were being shielded by relatives or friends for offences ranging from grievous bodily harm to robbery.
The targeted criminals straddled street gang or county lines teenagers as young as 16 as well as hardened violent criminals in their 50s.
One 40-year-old man wanted for robbery was arrested in a raid this week after being shielded by his mother who was also arrested for obstructing police. Officers recovered a stun gun.
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Detective Chief Superintendent Lee Hill, from the Violent Crime Taskforce, told The Telegraph it was the most intense and biggest operation of its kind in his 28 years in the service.
“What we have been doing is prioritising wanted offenders, those who we think pose the most risk to the public,” he said. “They are either wanted for violent offences or wanted for other crimes but have a history of violence.
“They are people who are in and out of the criminal justice system and this is what really matters to most Londoners. The reason why the numbers are so high is because of the relentless focus in the last few months.”
Borough commanders worked with specialist teams including anti-violence units and road traffic officers as well as deploying forensic financial investigators to track through bank and financial data to locate the wanted criminals particularly those abroad.
“We have had cases where we have tracked people overseas and we are in the process of trying to extradite them back to the UK. There is a lot of information that will assist us in locating those individuals in order to apprehend them,” said Mr Hill.
As head of the Met Police’s “wanted” offender unit, he said targeting them was “not a new activity,” but the operation marked a “real step up in activity.”
“It’s having that greater presence out on the streets. That’s what has generated the numbers. We are now saying that will continue,” he said.
The blitz on wanted criminals grew out of proactive policing tactics deployed during lockdown which saw a surge in arrests of drug dealers who were more “visible” on the empty streets and other “wanted” criminals who faced raids at home.
The operation will now continue through the Met Police’s annual Autumn nights campaign, targeting anti social behaviour and associated criminality that generally rises during the winter months.
It will include intelligence-led automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) operations will also catch and arrest violent offenders on the move around the capital.
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