My dawn raid on the dogs that menace London

As dawn broke last Thursday I was in a room in Lambeth with 75 police officers. I’d been invited to witness the seizure of illegal pit bull terriers from local gang members.

In the briefing, officers were matter-of-factly tasked with entering the homes of violent men and tangling with dogs trained to commit grievous bodily harm.

As we approached the first door on a silent, sunny street, the dogs sensed our presence and started barking. My stomach clenched.

Just outside the door, members of the Met’s new Status Dogs Unit stood armed with nooses and fire extinguishers, the only effective non-lethal weapons against pit bulls.

A bang, crash and they were in. Two minutes later they emerged with two illegal “weapon dogs”.

The same act of casual courage was repeated by officers 15 times that morning, yielding 20 pit bulls that had been terrorising neighbourhoods. Since it began in March, the unit has pulled in more than 200 dogs.

Three weeks earlier, at a similarly ungodly hour, I had been in the control room of Operation Hawk, during which 256 known violent offenders across the capital were arrested in one day.

This is what policing in London looks like in July 2009, and it’s why Simon Jenkins’s article this week about who controls policing in the capital is so out of step with the times.

Certainly, there are lessons to be learned from the G20 protests. But Jenkins begs the question when he makes the protests a proxy for how the Met operates, and proof that the organisation can’t change.

While Jenkins has been fulminating about cops’ failings, he has missed profound shifts at the Met over the past 14 months.

Since the change of Mayor and Metropolitan Commissioner, operations such as those I’ve described have been the real story of the Met.

They reflect a sharpened focus on the issues that face Londoners, alongside an increasing sense that the Met have customers who pay a lot of money for their services, and deserve to get what they need.

Furthermore, much of the apparent soap opera at the Met over the past year has resulted from historic issues, relics of a distraction at the top of the organisation which served police officers and Londoners equally badly.

Fortunately, the meddling hand of the Home Office is also fading into history. The relationship between the new Commissioner’s Office and the new Mayor’s Office is now primary, direct and close.

As a result we have been able to develop a comprehensive strategy to deal with the violence that plagues parts of our city.

As well as Blunt 2, which has taken more than 6,000 knives off the streets, put more than 500 additional crime fighters on the transport network and significantly increased police presence in town centres, the Met is ramping up its efforts to tackle the menace of gangs.

Meanwhile at the GLA we have launched our Violence Against Women Strategy, which is the first of its kind in any major city in the world.

All of this reflects a renewed energy and focus on dealing with crime and criminals in a robust way, while looking at the long-term work that will stop the next generation of offenders.

But nowhere has customer service been more evident than in Sir Paul Stephenson’s drive to increase the presence of his officers on the street.

The new Commissioner has heard what his customers have been demanding for 20 years: more bobbies on the beat.

So far he’s put 65,000 extra patrols out across the capital.

After years of confusion and drift at the Met, Londoners are finally back in control, and it is beginning to show.

Kit Malthouse is deputy Mayor for Policing and vice-chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority.