MORE than 1,200 violent criminals have been arrested by police gangbusters exploiting the coronavirus lockdown to catch them self-isolating indoors.

Met Police commissioner Cressida Dick said the "horrible" effects of Covid-19 had also presented a "silver lining" for clamping down on dangerous criminals.

Hundreds of cops have been unleashed to tackle some of the capital's most violent criminals and are rounding them up in isolation at home.

A mountain of drugs, firearms, including machine guns, a Lamborghini sports car and even a London black cab used for running contraband has been seized.

Among the 1,200 arrested were fugitives who have been wanted for years. Met boss Ms Dick said many of them were “very dangerous and high harm” individuals.

Cops have also drawn up a target list of 1,000 of the capital’s worst villains still at large and will be visiting them twice at home to warn them they are on the radar.

The crooks will be given the chance to turn their back on crime post-lockdown – or face being arrested and going to jail.

'SILVER LINING'

It is one of a raft of innovative measures introduced by the Met to exploit crime-fighting opportunities presented by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Around 250 crime hotspots have also been identified and will be subject to extra patrols and random swoops.

Extra police resources have been freed up to tackle gangs following a major drop in crime, which has plunged by more than a third since lockdown began on March 27.

Knife crime has dropped by a half and blade offences involving youngsters by 69% while personal robberies have gone down by 63%.

Demand for policing public events has ceased and cops in isolation are carrying out paperwork in order to allow frontline cops freedom to tackle criminals.

Ms Dick said: “It is such an awful time for the country and it has been horrible for so many people. But there are undoubtedly some silver linings.”

She added: “When the streets emptied, crime levels dropped as the vast majority of people stayed at home.

“During this period that Met has capitalised on this unprecedented shift in crime and demand to identify and target offenders responsible for the most serious crimes, particularly violence.”

Since 13 March, cops in the capital officers have seized 444 knives, 322 other types of offensive weapons, 106 firearms and made 2,478 other seizures – mostly drugs.

Fifteen County Lines drug networks have been disrupted over the past week with a green Lamborghini and two Mercedes cars being seized on Tuesday during raids in Croydon, South London.

'MAXIMISE OPPORTUNITY'

Five suspects were arrested on suspicion of supplying Class A drugs and have been transported to Hampshire where the County Line was allegedly operating.

In addition, 14 members of a notorious East London gang were arrested in an operationlast month. It led to the seizure of 40 kgs of cocaine, more than £100,000 in Euros and weapons including Skorpion and Bikail machine guns.

An Uzi machine gun and Skorpion were seized with Glock pistols during another operation and 550 mobile phones were found on one individual.

New Violence Suppression Units with 625 cops are being set up amid continuing tensions between rival gangs erupting as lockdown eases.

Ms Dick said: "We have seen a relief from violent crime for so many people and clearly many criminals being inhibited in their activities.

"We want to maximise every opportunity that we have to ensure that they don't take any momentum back, they don't get back out doing what they were doing before at the same levels."

Met assistant commissioner Nick Ephgrave said the force had “seized the opportunity” to move in on villains while they are self-isolating at home.

He added: “It has provided an opportunity to re-visit some inquiries that went stale. The lockdown has made it easier to find people.”


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