Police apologise for handling of Regent's Park gun alert

'Response in the run-up to the shooting fell below what the public should expect from us'

Tuesday, 22nd February — By Isabelle Stanley

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The aftermath in Clarence Gardens last year

POLICE have apologised for failing to stop a shooting which left four people – including a 73-year-old grandmother – injured, after admitting they had been told that a man was driving around with a gun.

Tenants said it had been “obvious” that something was going to happen ahead of the drive-by shots in Clarence Gardens on the Regent’s Park estate last summer. As well as the grandmother, a 19-year-old woman, a 17-year-old woman and a 28-year-old man were hurt.

On Friday, Detective Superintendent Caroline Haines said officers were aware of a man driving around with a gun the day before the shooting on August 14, but did not think it was a threat to life.

She admitted that this failure to act meant suspects were able to go ahead and shoot at a barbecue gathering on the estate. In a statement released to the New Journal, she said: “The police response in the run-up to the shooting fell below what the public should expect from us, and for that I sincerely apologise.”

DS Haines added: “It is now clear that there should have been a larger police presence in the area in the lead-up to the incident, which perhaps could have prevented the shooting and four people being injured. “My thoughts remain with those who were injured in the incident.”

On the afternoon of the shooting, the Met responded to reports of a group of 20 people with a machete in the area, but the group ran off when officers arrived. Instead, officers spoke to a group who were having a party nearby about the noise. There were five further reports of anti-social behaviour in the hours leading up to the shooting, but officers failed to attend due to miscommunications with call handlers.

DS Haines said: “If the officers in the operation room were aware of the ongoing anti-social behaviour – together with the firearms intelligence from the day before – it would have triggered the instigation of a risk management plan and signalled some form of positive police action to address and mitigate the developing situation, such as officers attending in uniform to act as a deterrent, or dispersing the group.”

Eight arrests have been made in relation to the incident, but nobody has been charged. Armed officers raided the estate in the days afterwards, entering a block in Compton Close. DS Haines said work was continuing with the council.

“We are a learning organisation and we take reports like this extremely seriously so that we can continue to improve and protect the communities we serve,” she said. “We will never know for sure if the shooting would have been prevented had we done things differently, but I am sorry that our actions prior to the incident were not at the standard you deserve.”

She thanked the public who raised concerns and said people should not be discouraged from calling police by the incident.

Kelly Strong, chair of the estate’s tenants’ association who was at home, heavily pregnant, on the day of the shooting, said: “The anger has dispersed now but in the weeks after I was furious. How could they let this happen? All these issues we’d raised in the past two years – there were so many red flags to say gang crime was rife in the area and no one put it together, and those red flags all culminated in a shooting.”

She added: “It was so obvious to us that something was going to happen, we had reported it to everyone – security patrols, council meetings – and no one did anything.”

Ms Strong said she is glad the police have apologised, but she wants the council to do the same.

She said: “I think it’s important for the council to issue a statement and say, ‘We did this wrong and this is what we’re doing to fix it’, because they had the warnings, too.”

A council spokesperson said: “This was a really distressing day for the community and we are sorry this incident was not handled better between the police and the council. We recognise the commitment made by the police to take action following their review into the handling of this incident. We are committed to working closely with the police to improve our joint response to incidents like this and to make Camden a safe place for everyone.”

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