Top cop ‘lost sleep’ over Queen’s Crescent raid

Published: July 28, 2011
by JOSIE HINTON

ONE of Camden’s most senior officers has admitted he had “sleepless nights” over last week’s police operation in which 200 officers stormed a suspected drug market.

As reported by the New Journal, Operation Target led to a sweep of arrests in Queen’s Crescent of suspected dealers. Officers from the Territorial Support Group and dog teams joined Camden police in a blitz which saw the road sealed off while a host of young men were searched.

Addresses given by some of those arrested last Wednesday included Southend and New Barnet.

Sceptics said it amounted to a public relations exercise and would not solve long-term problems in the area.

Others, enjoying the Queen’s Crescent Festival over the weekend, said they welcomed a police crackdown.

Superintendent Raj Kohli told a public meeting on Thursday: “It was a controversial tactic.

“I admit I did have sleepless nights thinking should we be doing this. I’m glad we did it.

“All I’ve heard for the last three years is that parts of Gospel Oak have become no-go areas and the police are doing nothing about it. We felt it was right and proper to show everybody in Gospel Oak what we were up to.”

Liberal Democrat Haverstock councillor Matt Sanders said the raid could be seen as the “first step” towards making the area safer, but that it must be followed up with further action.

“Queen’s Crescent and the Gospel Oak area has been crying out for extra attention for ages,” he added.

“However, there’s no point in a big-bang operation unless it’s followed up properly. We need a guaranteed long-term police presence in our area.”

Borough Commander Chief Superintendent John Sutherland said: “There has been a reality in that area over a period of time that there are a small number of criminals who have held that area to ransom.

“Inevitably there may have been young men who are innocent of anything but nonetheless were searched. If that is part of what we need to do to secure the safety of the community then I would say it’s justifiable.” 

During the operation, officers entered the Queen’s Crescent Community Centre but only to cut off escape routes for potential suspects.

In a statement, the Queen’s Crescent Community Association Board said: “The Board is saddened that a small number of people in the area, some not even Gospel Oak residents, have taken it upon themselves to spread untrue rumours about activities at the community centre and tried, unsuccessfully, to get one of our funders to cancel their grant for our summer sports programme.”