Luton gang fights have led to 'upturn' in serious violence over past two months

Luton has experienced an upturn in the most serious violence in the last two months, a meeting heard.

Monday, 15th March 2021, 12:44 pm
Updated Monday, 15th March 2021, 12:46 pm

There have been "six firearms discharges and a number of serious stabbings" very recently, the council's crime and disorder scrutiny committee was told.

"These incidents are linked to inter-gang tensions, such as between OPK and Marsh Farm ones, the Rumley gang and reported groups from London muscling in on Marsh Farm," according to DCI David Cestaro, of Bedfordshire Police.

DCI Cestaro presented a report on violence and exploitation to councillors, but added there has been a sustained fall in youth violence over the pior 18 months.

"Restrictions, most markedly the lockdowns, have had a significant impact on incidents of serious violence, which is recognised nationally.

"It's reassuring Luton didn't experience the spike... in late summer 2020.

"That's borne out by police recorded crime figures and by hospital admissions, with less than half the number of episodes involving teenagers as was the case three years ago."

These decreases coincide with informed activity from across the force and the region, such as:

> 'Operation Sparkler' focusing on hot spots of gang crime, particularly in the north-west of the town;

> Targeted search warrants taking several firearms off the streets;

> Work of the multi-agency gang panel (MAGPan) and the violence and exploitation reduction unit (VERU).

Det Chief Insp Cestaro said: "Legislation about to be announced will include a mandated duty to cooperate where police, health and functions within the local authority's remit will need to show they're working together to tackle serious violence.

"County lines, which is so much associated with cuckooing, child criminal exploitation, and a police resource targeting gang related and firearms crimes are now led by the same detective chief inspector."

The violence and exploitation reduction unit (VERU) oversight board has agreed to take strategic oversight of serious and organised crime, he explained.

"Luton continues to experience exploitation through sex work, on street and off street trade, driven by organised crime, primarily involving east European victims and offenders.

"The hoped for strategic needs analysis in this area couldn't be achieved, within the difficulties of coordinating partners' resources.

"The VERU-led analyst group intends delivering an assessment around exploitation in the coming year."

A shift from female to male victims has been apparent in wider modern slavery and human trafficking exploitation, warned DCI Cestaro.

"This is largely driven by identical child criminal exploitation and county lines activity,

"That accounts now for around a third of recorded modern slavery and human trafficking cases.

"There was an increase in labour exploitation. The main victim nationalities are Romanians, British and Albanian."

Bedfordshire Police is introducing a vulnerability assessment tool, which is a method developed by the national county lines coordination centre.

It allows for a range of police and partner data to come together to reach a more rounded appreciation of an individual's vulnerability.

This has been adopted by 27 forces already, so it enables that assessment to travel with a person between force and local authority areas.