/ Multi-agency operation to tackle organised crime

A multi-agency operation to tackle organised crime groups has been unveiled.

Bringing together a wide variety of local and national agencies, the operation has been launched to target criminal networks and who cause misery and hardship to communities across Greater Manchester.

The team will investigate every area of a criminal's life - such as their business interests, properties, benefits, associates as well as their involvement in drug dealing and smuggling firearms to identify illegal activity.

Agencies will then be able to use their powers to make it difficult for these criminals to operate, which could include arrests, freezing their assets, evicting them from their homes, seizing their cars or stopping their benefits.

In the past year, Greater Manchester Police along with partner agencies have done a lot of work to tackle organised crime groups across the city, particularly in the Salford area. This has included high-impact raids combined with a focus on neighbourhood policing to encourage residents to work with police, and also the innovative use of gang injunctions to impose strict conditions on those who associate themselves with criminal groups.

The multi-agency operation will build on this work, but brings together more agencies with a greater emphasis on working with the local communities to achieve lasting change. The operation has the support of the Home Office and is being piloted in the Tameside and north Manchester areas, with a view to rolling it out across Greater Manchester and potentially on a national scale in future months.

Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy said: "Organised crime groups can have an insidious effect on our communities, creating a culture of fear and intimidation and making people's lives a misery.

"Time and time again, agencies are dealing with the same people from the same families which is both a huge drain on resources and the public purse. We all need to work together rather than in silos to really tackle these problems.

"These people have to be stopped which is why we have created this team who will identify who these individuals are, which criminal networks they belong to and look at every possible means of disrupting their lives.

"By working together in partnership, we will systematically dismantle these groups and deliver long-term change in these communities so that residents no longer have to live in fear of these criminals."

A series of warrants are being carried out on every division in Greater Manchester to target those involved in organised criminality.

These have included warrants executed by the England Illegal Money Lending Team, assisted by other agencies, to target the loan sharks who prey upon vulnerable people to help fund these criminal networks.

Assistant Chief Constable Steve Heywood, who is Greater Manchester Police's Gold Commander for the operation, added: "This is not about cutting off the arm of an OCG, but dismantling it piece by piece, member by member. It is about agencies pooling their resources to target every facet of a criminal's life, putting them under so much pressure it is impossible for them to operate.

"If you want to bring down the so-called 'Mr Bigs', you need to strip away their empire. And when you start to pull on the threads of what appears to be minor offences, the whole empire begins to unravel.

"That means taking away their means of transport by targeting the people who chauffeur them around. It means stopping them from obtaining mortgages they cannot legitimately afford to buy second properties used to rake in more cash through rental scams, often bullying tenants into paying exorbitant prices. It means closing down certain pubs and clubs so these criminals can't use them as a haven to deal drugs and line their pockets.

"It is also often the case that criminals set up supposedly legitimate business fronts to disguise their illegal activity. This can make it difficult for the police to pursue criminal charges, but other agencies can use different powers to disrupt their businesses.

"By working so closely in partnership, agencies can share information about every aspect of these people's lives and together we will take decisive and permanent action to stop them causing misery in our communities."

The long-term aim of the operation is to change people's attitudes towards the acceptance and existence of organised crime groups and discourage youngsters from slipping into this lifestyle.

This involves working very closely with residents to understand the different identities of each community, how organised criminality really affects them, and how best to tackle it.

"At the heart of this operation is the needs of the community," ACC Heywood added. "We know each community is different, each suffering different problems caused by organised crime groups or troublesome families.

"So rather than agencies dictating what action is taken, we want residents to tell us about the people who are causing problems so we can go away and develop bespoke plans to disrupt these individuals using every possible tool in our arsenal.

"Together, we can achieve real and long-term change and drive these criminal networks out of business and out of people's lives."

Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said: "We will be working closely with the police and residents to make sure criminals in east Manchester have a very unhappy Christmas and an even worse new year.

"Organised criminal activity such as drug dealing and illegal money lending inflicts misery upon entire communities and we are doing everything we can to ensure these networks are taken apart and those responsible are brought to justice."

Tony Lloyd, Police and Crime Commissioner for Greater Manchester, said: "I've been listening to local residents who are rightly concerned about crime where they live. This operation is a welcome example of the police, local authorities, and criminal justice agencies working together with the community to keep up the pressure on gun, gang and organised crime."

Tameside Council Executive Leader Cllr Kieran Quinn said: "The Council fully backs this new operation to tackle criminal networks and will work closely with the police and our other partners to continue to support our local communities."

Since May, the multi-agency team has already arrested more than 70 people, executed more than 60 warrants at homes and business premises and seized thousands of pounds worth of cash and drugs.

Greater Manchester Police, Tameside Council, Manchester City Council, the Serious Organised Crime Agency, the Department of Work and Pensions, the Security Industry Association, the Illegal Money Lending Team, UK Borders Agency, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, the NHS, North West Ambulance Service, National Offender Management Service, Department for Communities and Local Government and Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs are among the agencies already involved.

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