‘Manchester crime families beware, we will confront you’: Police sting on gangs after slaying of officers

By Emily Wolstencroft 

Manchester’s organised crime networks are being systematically dismantled member by member due to the work of a multi-agency operation targeting criminal networks across the city.

Criminal networks in Tameside and North and East Manchester were revealed following the murders of two police officers by Dale Cregan last year.

Under the UK’s biggest response to organised crime, Operation Challenger has resulted in more than 300 arrests, £2million worth of property seized, more than £300,000 worth of drugs recovered and £650,000 worth of restraint orders since October 2012.

The operation came into effect following the murders of PC Nicola Hughes, 23, and PC Fiona Bone, 32 on September 18 last year.

Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy said: “The investigation into the murders of Fiona, Nicola and the Short family revealed a far-reaching web of organised criminality and extreme violence which had to be tackled.

“The historic rivalry between criminal factions fighting over reputation and territory and creating alternative systems of justice was the spark that led to the tragic events we saw last year.

“Over the past few years, we have made huge strides towards tackling organised crime. Millions of pounds worth of drugs have been seized and more than 1,500 years of jail time handed out to offenders.

“However, we know there are still criminal networks causing misery to certain communities so Operation Challenger seeks to build on our successes and permanently tackle these organised crime groups.”

Over the past 12 months, Manchester has seen offenders jailed for a total of 1,566 years and had more than £25m worth of drugs seized due to the work of agencies across the area.

The figures have been released after last month MM exclusively revealed a staggering £90,000 worth of drugs is being seized on average EVERY DAY from Manchester’s streets.

“We know that the answers to tackling organised crime lie in the communities where these people operate, so we are asking residents to take a stand with us and together we can bring about real change,” Sir Peter Fahy added.

“These are your communities. They belong to you, not the criminal families who try and rule with an iron fist.”

Initially targeting 28 key individuals associated with criminal networks that have now been arrested or released on bail, the long-term aim of the operation remains to change people’s attitudes towards the acceptance of organised crime groups and discourage young people from falling into this lifestyle.

“Generations of families have been brought up in a culture of violence, intimidation and reputation and it is engrained in their psyche,” the Chief Constable added.

“For these people, the threat of prison may not be enough.

“But if you strip away their status, take away the flash motors bought through drug money, seize the illegally-obtained homes and businesses and dry up the funds to buy guns and drugs then we can cut these so-called Mr Bigs down to size and show future generations there is nothing glamorous about organised crime, and that this sort of lifestyle will leave you penniless and in prison.”

The Challenger team can widen their investigation into 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.

Residents of the area have been congratulated by council bosses for their own efforts towards the Operation Challenger.

Cllr Bernard Priest, Manchester City Council’s Executive Member for Neighbourhood Services, said:
“I would like to praise residents in east Manchester and other areas who have had the courage to stand up for their.”

Although the tragic events involving the murders of the police officers will have a lasting impact on the area, the Tameside council aim to move on and work with residents to create a safer, crime-free area.

Executive Leader of Tameside Council Cllr Kieran Quinn said: “The main positive we can take from this whole episode is the unwavering support demonstrated by the borough’s community to say to these criminal gangs: we will not just stand by and let you carry out your nefarious business unchallenged.

“There is no escaping the fact that the events surrounding this court case left a dark cloud looming over Tameside, but I feel and genuinely believe that the cloud has now lifted and, with the community’s continued support, we can look forward to a brighter future for Droylsden and Tameside as a whole.

“A future in which we say loud and clear to these gangs that we will confront you at every available opportunity.”

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