London’s firearms officers are the subject of a new ITV1 show set to air next month. Described by producers as “a no holds barred account of the Metropolitan Police’s tough battle against gun crime”, In the Line of Fire spent four months following the officers from CO19 as they faced the capital’s armed criminals.
C019 officers tell the cameras what it is like to be handed a weapon at the start of every shift and how they approach a task which increasingly pits them against armed teenagers from communities which their experience tells them deeply resent the police.
Viewers will see C019 Officers racing to help an unarmed police officer stuck in a bullet riddled car, who has been shot at five times. The protracted three hour search for the gunman is fraught with risk, jeopardy and false alarms.
The official statistics on gun crime reveal an alarming picture, 14,000 gun and knife incidents were reported in London in 2007 alone. The programme discovers that behind the statistics a worrying new trend is emerging. The age of both the victims and perpetrators of gun crime are falling drastically. In 2007, 190 children under the age of 17 were shot by armed criminals in London and a quarter of the shootings CO19 attend are committed by under 18s.
The age of the gunmen comes as no surprise to Inspector Matt Twist: “Ten years ago probably the higher echelons of the criminal fraternity were using firearms for specific purposes to settle scores or commit armed robberies. Now there are children of 14, 15, 16 using guns to settle disputes that would have previously been fights in the playground or fights after school. Now they’re being resolved using guns. It is actually quite scary, if at age 14 or 15 you are prepared to use guns to shoot other people then God knows what is going to happen in the next five years.”
The series films a specialist operation called ‘Argon’ in December 2007 which is designed to stem the wave of nightclub shootings. In previous years there had been, on average, one shooting a day at nightclubs in London, over the Christmas period. Throughout the operation officers are placed outside London’s problem nightclubs while further officers are deployed to work on the inside, undercover. Dozens of armed officers are used to robustly stop and search known gang and gun criminals.
CO19’s Sergeant Matt Smith believes the tactic sends an important message to the gang members: “Effectively when they are on the streets with the gun and they are the only person with the gun then it is very easy for them to be brave. It’s a slightly different story when they are confronted with trained professionals who also have guns.”
Tuesday, 10 February 2009, 9:00PM – 10:00PM