[from Islington Tribune]
Over 600 officers sealed off both ends of Blackstock Road as colleagues stormed premises Hundreds of police swoop on Blackstock Road in ‘clean sweep’ operation aimed at crime ring
• 35 arrests in largest raid in borough’s history • Action follows a year of surveillance
HUNDREDS of police in riot gear attempted a “clean sweep” of a notorious drugs and stolen goods market in the largest raid in borough history yesterday (Thursday).
Nineteen butchers, internet cafés, and travel agents in Blackstock Road were raided by more than 600 officers after a year-long surveillance operation revealed it was the centre of a London-wide network for heroin, stolen phones, and forged identity documents.
The vibrant shopping street in Finsbury Park was completely sealed off as hundreds of police swooped from both ends to maximise shock and surprise.
Thirty-five people had been arrested in the street and more arrests were expected as the Tribune went to press last night.
Islington borough commander Bob Carr said the raids would bring the street “back under the control of the authorities” after criminals had built a network in which the phones, laptops and electronic goods stolen in robberies and burglaries across north London were fenced.
Chief Supt Carr said: “People will ask why it was so big and spectacular, but this is not a fishing expedition. We know the people we’re looking for, and we know the addresses we want.
“These people are hiding behind the Algerian community and pretending they’re part of that community, which they’re not. They’re just criminals.”
Phone company T-mobile had told police that 42 per cent of stolen phones were used in the Blackstock Road area after their theft – evidence that it was the beginning of a chain that led to markets for stolen phones abroad, Chief Supt Carr added.
Timed not to clash with prayer time at nearby Finsbury Park mosque, the lunchtime sting followed a morning of raids across London in which 37 addresses were searched and 35 suspects arrested for their alleged connection to the Blackstock crime-ring.
Fourteen addresses in Islington, most in N7 and N4, were part of the early raids.
The growing criminality of Blackstock Road, symbolised for some officers by the assault of five riot police by a mob in the street in 2006, has caused months of complaints from shopkeepers and legitimate businesses, several of whom told the Tribune that the raids were long overdue but very welcome.
Owner of the Finsbury Superstore Kenan Korkmaz said: “Customers are scared to walk the road because people are robbing and stealing openly in the street. At night we don’t get any customers at all. This is a good thing, but they need to keep coming back. After a couple of months people may start to think it is safe.”