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Gangs cop: Islington violence is the worst I’ve known

Officer tells how low-level disputes that were previously resolved with fists, now involve the use of knives

28 June, 2019 — By Calum Fraser

Ralph Coates leads a team of specialist police officers

THE head of the borough’s gangs squad says violence on the streets of Islington is now the worst he has seen it in his time as a police officer.

Ralph Coates, who leads a team of specialist officers investigating gang activity in Islington and Camden, said it was the willingness to resolve disputes with knives and “extreme violence” that had caused him to believe we are living through a particularly vicious period.

The long-standing officer said his team have moved to a tactic of arresting violent criminals on drugs charges, which are relatively easier to prove, rather than on assaults or attacks – in a bid to stem the violence.

Det Chief Insp Coates, who worked in Haringey for 13 years before moving to Tolpuddle Street, said: “To me it seems like it is more violent out there now. It is the extreme levels of violence when there is an incident.”

He said that when he first started, lower level disputes were resolved with “fists” instead of “knives”.

“We recently emptied one of the knife bins in Islington,” he said. “It’s not people trying to get rid of their favourite potato peelers, there’s 18-inch machetes in there.”

There have been year-on-year increases of violence against the person (VAP) incidents recorded in the borough almost every year since May 2012.

VAP includes stabbings, murders and assaults without injury.

In the previous 12 months – from May 2018 to May 2019 – there were 7,143 VAP recorded offences.

In the same period from 2012 to 2013 there were 4,483 recorded incidents.

This means a 60 per cent increase.

The Met are now labelling knife crime as “drug-related” crime, according to Det Chief Insp Coates, in a move that illustrates the way in which drugs are a major driving force in the escalation of violence.

Camden and Islington are particularly lucrative markets for drug supply because of the areas’ affluence, he said. Dealers can be living outside the borough but travel into the area, known as “commuter dealers”.

“You prevent violent offences by locking people up with drug offences,” said Det Chief Insp Coates.

“If you know someone is responsible for a violent offence, it is quite often difficult to get the evidence to prove they committed that.

“But then you also know they are a dealer, so you take them out on the dealing offence.”

There is still an active drug and gang scene in the boroughs.

Pressed on which gangs were operating in which areas and whether there had been an escalation of territorial disputes, he declined to go into details as the current operation is ongoing.

He believes the police are now getting to grips with the crisis due to extra resources and the new Violent Crime Task Force parachuting into hotspots across the capital.

Det Chief Insp Coates added: “I have been on incidents in the past where someone gets stabbed and then someone else gets stabbed and it goes backward and forwards.

“You don’t seem to get that now because we’re in there hard.

“What we don’t seem to have the solution to is stopping the first incident, because you don’t know it is going to happen.”

7 arrests as dawn-raid police target ‘dealers’

Police officers go into a property in Angel

A 60-YEAR-OLD man was one of seven people arrested as around 140 police officers smashed down doors across the borough in dawn raids on Wednesday, writes Calum Fraser.

Warrants were executed at two different houses in Caledonian Road, and at addresses in Liverpool Road, Kinross House, Copenhagen Street, Watkinson Road, Penton Rise and Carnoustie Drive.


Another home was raided in St Paul’s Avenue, Brent, where about £15,000 worth of class A drugs was found which is believed to be linked with supply in Islington.

A man arrested during the dawn raids is led away

Six men and one woman – aged between 19 and 60 – were arrested on suspicion of drug supply offences.

The arrests were part of a six-month investigation targeting “violent drug dealers” in Islington.

Detective Chief Inspector Ralph Coates, of the Central North Gangs Unit, said: “We have been targetting violent offenders involved in the drug supply in Islington.

“This proactive operation is part of my team’s ongoing work to disrupt drug-dealing in the borough.”


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