Families on Neasden travellers' site tell of terror as police stage dawn raid and seize gun, cash and drugs
PUBLISHED: 10:16 15 November 2018 | UPDATED: 10:16 15 November 2018
A gun, £20,000 in cash and Class A drugs were seized from a travellers’ site in Neasden during a police raid yesterday.
Families living on the site in Lynton Close were woken by armed riot police breaking down caravan doors at 3.30am.
Officers entered seven homes to conduct search warrants and remained there all day, Scotland Yard said. When the Times visited at about 4pm there were still dozens of officers with shields and helmets on the site.
Three men, aged 28, 26 and 25, and two women, aged 24 and 26, were arrested on suspicion of being concerned in the supply of class A and class B drugs.
Vehicles including a caravan, suspected to be stolen, and two large tipper-style trucks believed to be used in illegal fly-tipping, were also seized.
One mother who had picked up her children from school said they had been waiting for “more than an hour” to be let back in to the site in the afternoon.
She said: “We’re not allowed into our homes. All the children want is their dinner. All this has nothing to do with us.”
One HGV driver told the Kilburn Times 32 families live on site. He added: “There were families with kids and they [the police] came in with batons and smashed the door. It was random pitch picking. They didn’t give people a chance to open their doors. One of the mothers has a four-year-old child and told them: ‘I’ll open it, wait,’ but they ignored her. They searched her property and found nothing.”
The travellers’ site was set up 21 years ago near the North Circular.
In April its management was brought back in house to Brent Council. It was previously been managed by Oxfordshire City Council on behalf of Brent Housing Management.
At the time the council said the new arrangement would see a £500,000 “dedicated improvement programme” for the site including refurbished kitchens and bathrooms and fire safety measures implemented within the year.
The man added: “This site has been here for the last 21 years. In those 21 years families have grown up, married and had children of their own.
“We know there’s a problem with overcrowding but [the site management] are not doing anything for anyone.”
Pensioner Felix Klutz, who lives next door to the site, said he “didn’t hear anything” and that the traveller community “never disturb us”.
He said there were many issues within their neighbourhood, in particular the fly-tipping.
He said: “The rubbish is all around us, especially at the weekend when people come into the area with their cars. The council clears it and then it comes back.”
The Royal Mail worker added: “There are three big cement mixers around here which bring in a lot of dust. When Wembley Stadium was being built they put them here. They [the council] ask us if we wanted them and we said no and they still continued.
“Flowers can’t survive in it, so what about human beings?”
Another man, who has lived on the neighbouring estate for 22 years, couldn’t drive out to go and collect his children from school. He said: “Everywhere there is drugs, but it’s a misery living here. You walk past and the children throw stones, at people, at cars.
“The council cheat us, they told us the site is temporary but it is still here.”
Det Sgt Kelly Schonhage, from North West Command Unit CID, said: “Today’s operation has been a real success and was carried out as a result of concerns we have received from the local community.
“Criminality and the associated anti-social behaviour that comes with it has a negative impact on communities so I hope these arrests and seizures demonstrate that police will act on the information we receive.
“If you have concerns about criminality please get in touch; police and our partner agencies do listen and we do take action.”
Agencies from the Government Agency Intelligence Network (GAIN) were involved in Monday’s raid, including HMRC and the RSPCA, alongside officers from Essex Police.
The warrants formed part of an intelligence-led, multi-agency operation in connection to a number of offences including drug supply, vehicle offences and repeated anti-social behaviour.
Brent Council has been contacted for comment over allegations of overcrowding and fly-tipping on the site.