Saturday, 22 May 2010

£2 bullets and conspiracy theories: Hackney's worst enemies this summer?

Below are some of the issues discussed at a meeting between Hackney residents and Chief Superintendent Bill Tillbrook - head of London's armed police CO19 - organised by Black Parent Community Forum.

The meeting was held between 2-4pm on Saturday 22 May at the Adeline Centre on Belsham Street and was punctuated, at about 3.3opm, by the departure of the Hackney Gazette's chief reporter to cover the shooting on London Fields.

The aim of the meeting was for the CO19 chief to tell Hackney residents what his unit does. Tillbrook said that the 700-strong unit's most impressive statistic is rarely mentioned: that it is called out between 12-13,000 times per year but the average number of times that any weapon is fired is just 2 per year. But a number of more general issues were also discussed:

Has the shortage of bullets - seen as a major curb on gun violence in Hackney - come to an end? Homemade bullets are not uncommon due to the shortage. On April 22 Hackney Borough commander, Steve Bending told the Gazette: "Most firearms are converted, blank-firing guns and most of the ammunition is home made... they are inaccurate weapons with poor ammunition."

Rev Joyce Daley, the meeting organiser, said she had heard that bullets may now be for sale in Hackney for £2 each. (Telegraph piece: “There would be a lot more murders,” says Professor John Pitts, who has studied the phenomenon extensively, “were it not for one factor: the difficulty in obtaining bullets.”)

Are the police selling guns and drugs in Hackney? A minority of Hackney residents appear to believe this. So powerful is this belief that Hackney police has apparently agreed to publicly display 2.5 tonnes of recovered and destroyed weapons.

During the meeting Chief Superintendent Bill Tillbrook pointed out that police corruption had been one of the main areas of concern at a meeting in November - the last time he took part in a Black Parents Forum meeting. He said that some people believed the police had killed people but that these incidents were never reported: "This tells me what a huge gap there is between what's going on and what people believe is going on. For someone in London, in 2010, to think we can shoot someone in the street and it wouldn't get reported... there's an information gap."

Other items discussed during and after the meeting:

Information and educational material about the dangers of gun crime need to be aimed much more at primary schools.

Kids being stopped several times a day on some estates need to be made aware that this will not be the result of random borough-wide powers but will be due to a specific incident or piece of intelligence about the area that they live in (Section 60) (These have been issued almost every week for several months in Hackney.)

The culture of silence surrounding these crimes may be related to what goes on in prison as well as what happens on the streets of Hackney.

The media needs to be more accountable for glorifying gun culture.

Chickenshed theatre group's "Crime of the Century" will be showing at St John's Church, Lower Clapton Road on Saturday June 5, 5pm-7pm, dedicated to Shaquille Smith who was stabbed to death in London Fields in August 2008. For tickets, 020 8292 9222


  1. Hello,
    To pick up on your last point, I'd be interested in talking to you. We're a documentary production company, currently in talks with a local charity to produce a series featuring young people in Hackney, in an attempt to counter the often shallow news reportage. At this stage, we're looking for people who can help articulate some of these complex problems you mention.
    If you'd care to email me, I'd be grateful to hear from you.

  2. "To think we can shoot someone in the street and it wouldn't get reported... there's an information gap."

    He doesn't think people might have heard about the G20 and simply not trust his lot not to kill people and then try to cover it up?

  3. Apparently the distrust is related to what used to happen in Stoke Newington police station and has been passed down a generation or two. I don't imagine the more recent stuff you're talking about helps much.

    But this article in the independent from 1993 gives an idea of how bad it was. It says that Hackney MPs Diane Abbott and Brian Sedgemore both raised the issue in Parliament. Sedgemore said: "those nasty, vile and corrupt police officers at Stoke Newington police station who have been engaged in drug trafficking and perverting the course of justice'.