Newham police chief: ‘Things are horrific. Gangs are more dangerous than paedophiles’

Det Ch Supt Richard Tucker is the new police chief for Newham and Waltham Forest. Picture: NE BCU

Det Ch Supt Richard Tucker is the new police chief for Newham and Waltham Forest. Picture: NE BCU - Credit: Archant

Under new Met police structuring, Newham and Waltham Forest police forces are merging to become the North East Borough Command Unit. The Recorder spoke to new head, Det Ch Supt Richard Tucker, to hear how he’ll be tackling knife crime, gang violence, and improving police presence on the streets.

Det Ch Supt Tucker is unapologetic about his approach to violent crime.

“If I have to stop and search every young man in Stratford mall because it saves just one of them from being seriously injured, so be it,” he said.

“As a police force, we’ve got to change. And I’m not stepping away from that change because people don’t like stop and search.”

As an eastender who’s spent 32 years working in forces in Camden, Plaistow, and Waltham Forest, he’s acutely aware of the problems facing Newham which weren’t there three decades ago.

“I used to deal with some really bad people 30 years ago, but it would never have crossed their minds to take over the home of a mentally ill person to deal drugs, or groom a teenager into dealing drugs in a provincial town,” he said.

“It’s always been young men getting involved in violence, but the ferocity is increasing.”

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According to Det Ch Supt Tucker, it’s a lack of fear which is driving up gang violence in the borough. Police have been gradually avoiding confrontational measures – like stop and search – and now criminals aren’t afraid.

“Certain young men are thriving in their attitude towards the rest of society,” he said.

“Some say they carry knives because they’re scared, but not the people I’ve seen recently. They’re not scared.”

Det Ch Supt Tucker believes it’s a combination of poor choices and peer pressure which leads so many into gangs. His work in schools and with children’s groups is aimed at making young people defy this pressure.

“To say, ‘we don’t snitch’ is all well and good,” he said, “but are you then saying it’s alright that young men are getting killed?

“Gangs have some very influential people. Would you hang around with a dangerous paedophile? No, you wouldn’t. But these boys are more dangerous than them.”

He’s encouraging people to come forward, in a bid to reinstate the co-operation that once existed between the community and the police.

“We don’t want to isolate young people through targeting, but no community can exist with them in it,” he said.

“These people are outlaws. No community will say these boys are a part of it.”

He admits that with the closure of police stations, like those in Plaistow and Stratford, having that vital visible presence is harder. But in the face of budget cuts, it’s more important to have officers out on the street than running expensive buildings with high overheads.

And while it may have been these budget cuts which caused the merge of forces, he assured it’s not to the detriment of their power.

“There’s more efficiency in terms of borders,” Det Ch Supt Tucker said.

“If you take a vulnerable young girl, for example, subject to gang grooming, involved in drug dealing and exploited sexually, before you’d have three units dealing with that. We’re now amalgamated into one response, and that’s a step in the right direction.”

The unit will have around 1,400 officers, all with mobiles allowing them to stay on the streets, rather than returning to base to do reports. Problems which occured in other mergers – like the tri-borough approach in Barking and Dagenham, Havering and Redbridge – shouldn’t occur, Richard said, because the merger is smaller and there’s more time to carry it out.

And while he admitted the merger will bring challenges, ultimately, it’s how his officers conduct themselves on the streets which matters.

“I want cops to be confident with their powers,” he said.

“If you’re a member of a gang, and you give the perception of menace or hurting someone, you can expect us to be in your lives a lot. I’d take their cars off them, I’d take their houses off them, their phones. Anything we can do, legally.

“Things are horrific. Gang boys have got it coming.”