Feature: Inside Barking and Dagenham’s new gangs and drugs unit

The new Barking-based unit operate in both uniform and plain clothes, visiting gang members' homes and carrying out weapon...

The new Barking-based unit operate in both uniform and plain clothes, visiting gang members' homes and carrying out weapon searches - Credit: Archant

With a rise in serious youth crime coinciding with changes at City Hall, a new unit was launched to tackle the borough’s gangs in the summer.

Serg Julian Bertie (left) at Notting Hill Carnival

Serg Julian Bertie (left) at Notting Hill Carnival - Credit: Archant

The Gangs and Drugs Unit was set up in July, reflecting the wishes of new Mayor of London Sadiq Khan to put a greater focus on tackling drugs.

The unit’s matrix – which rates gang members red, amber or green depending on levels of violence – currently has 118 people on its watchlist which consists of people operating across the borough and further afield.

Made up of 16 Pcs and two sergeants, the unit has identified up to six prominent gangs operating in Barking and Dagenham

But the unit aren’t just dealing with home-grown mobsters.

The unit is based at Fresh Wharf custody base

The unit is based at Fresh Wharf custody base - Credit: Archant


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Like anyone else, gang members feel the squeeze of gentrification and rising housing prices are pushing them eastwards.

“The borough and the unit have been affected by the movement of people into the borough from different areas in London,” explained Sgt Julian Bertie, who jointly heads up the unit.

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“It’s something we’re always looking closely at and working with our partners to address and eliminate any risk.

“We’re probably more susceptible to that because of the relatively cheaper cost of housing in this borough than others, but it’s not an issue that’s unique to Barking and Dagenham.”

With such a wide-ranging unit what are the aims for the future?

“Our short-term goal is to reduce the level of serious youth violence within Barking and Dagenham,” added Sgt Bertie.

“Long-term we’re looking to utilise the diversionary agencies in order to prevent the other issues that come through gangs and drugs.

“The problem that we’ve got in Barking and Dagenham is nowhere near as bad as it is in other London boroughs but what this unit is trying to do is put a lid on it here so that situations like we’ve seen over the past three weeks and the killings of Ricky Hayden and Raja Rashid Ali don’t happen again.”

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