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On Wednesday 2 November, Detective Superintendent Neil Blackwood, Greater Manchester Police’s (GMP) lead on Operation Vulcan, hosted a Summit at Emirates Old Trafford that drew in more than a hundred partner representatives.
At the beginning of the summit, a question was put to the room as to whether those in attendance thought the situation in Cheetham Hill had improved over the decades. The answer was a resounding no.
The vision of Operation Vulcan was then put forward: a GMP led, multi-agency operation that will bring about real and sustainable change in the area.
What this means in practice is systematic and relentless action over the coming months to rid Cheetham Hill of the serious organised crime which has blighted the area and beleaguered its people for decades.
Partners in attendance committed themselves to working alongside GMP and each other to breathe life back into the area - supporting legitimate businesses at the expense of illegitimate ones.
For many in Greater Manchester and wider, the Cheetham Hill and Strangeways areas are synonymous with counterfeit goods. This is a fair assessment as the area is believed to be linked to approximately 50% of this trade nationwide. For consumers it is often the ‘go-to’ place for cheap, fake designer goods and many mistakenly believe that purchasing counterfeit is a harmless crime.
This could not be further from the truth.
The counterfeit trade facilitates a free-flow cash stream into the pockets of organised crime groups. There are around 33 of these groups operating in the Cheetham Hill and Strangeways area alone. It’s a staggering and unacceptable number.
Through Operation Vulcan, GMP and partners have pledged to dismantle this trade and demonstrate how consumers cash directly funds the criminals and brings with it much more serious crime and violence.
Counterfeit is just the tip of the iceberg, and the operation will target another 7 key areas: illicit medication and the supply of drugs, modern day slavery, enforced labour and sexual exploitation, organised and exploitative immigration, money laundering, serious and violent crime, and community disruption and disorder.
The joined-up approach with partners is crucial to operations success. The support from partner organisations ensures that GMP can target every level of criminal activity whilst also ensuring vulnerable people in the community are supported.
Detective Superintendent Neil Blackwood said: “We have an extraordinary plan, a brilliant team and now the partner support to make this a safer area that communities are proud to call home.
“Our focus is on every element of crime that has infected the area and in a very simple way we will make the criminals feel harassed and harangued until they desist, or we put them in jail.
“This is not going to be a flash in the pan, and we won’t solve it in three months but with our partners help we will put prevention at the heart of it – working with communities to revitalise the area and make the area safer for children and our communities.”
Chief Constable Stephen Watson added: “Crime in the Cheetham Hill and Strangeways area directly impacts the people who live there – it affects their ability to go about their lives, run legitimate businesses and bring up their children in safety and security. The area is infected by criminality and beleaguered by people who commit horrendous acts.
“In tackling the issue, our actions up until now have not been sufficiently systemic, they have not been sustained and we have not been assiduous enough in employing the full range of powers available to us and all of our partner agencies.
“We have also been looking at the area through too narrow a prism. People tend to think the area is all about counterfeit but there is other more sinister crime operating in Cheetham Hill. Career criminals have come to consider themselves immune from personal accountability. This dynamic is going to come to a dramatic, purposeful and sustainable stop.”
Watch this space as GMP and partners take Operation Vulcan forwards together.