Operation Londinium at Stratford

 by Martin Belam, 30 August 2004

One of the highlights of my day out to see the National Maritime Museum's The Adventures of Tintin at Sea exhibition, was a rare chance to travel on the futuristic Docklands Light Railway. It caused one of my friends to remark "This is how the future was sold to me as a kid - travelling through tunnels in a robot-driven train.".

On the way home we got caught up in another vision of the future, although this time it was more like something from Judge Dredd. Operation Londinium was a multi-force attempt to target anti-social behaviour and petty crime at Stratford station, apparently involving over 150 poince officers from various forces.

Essentially everybody leaving the station was being assessed, and then subjected to what was deemed the correct level of inspection by the police. Whilst my friends who were walking in male/female pairs equipped with children sailed through, as a single 30something male I was subjected to a search by sniffer dog.

I was unhappy with it for a couple of reasons. Firstly, although I think the officer did essentially ask for my permission, it all happened so quickly that I don't actually recall whether he showed any ID, and it wouldn't have mattered whether I'd refused to be sniffed or not, because by the time the officer was halfway through the sentence the dog was already snuffling upon me anyway. The second being that as I understood it from the tabloids "Stop & Search" had become an increasingly less useful tool due to the "politically correct" burdens of paperwork associated with every stop. Well, I didn't get asked to sign anything, and I didn't see the officer writing out any paperwork to suggest that a search had taken place, he just wandered off to his next target.

In the Metro newspaper this week police were happy that they had made arrests 61 for possession of drugs, concealed weapons and fare evaders. Fair enough, except that apart from the fare dodging I expect they could achieve the same by just setting up road-blocks on most major pedestrian thoroughfares in London. What concerns me is how these kind of operations might progress if Blunkett has his way and we all have biometric ID cards in five/six years time. I daresay there will be a bit more paperwork then, and by now I would have had to report to a police station to "establish my credentials". All for my own safety of course.

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