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Bringing down the empires of the ‘Mr Bigs’: Greater Manchester Police take on organised crime families

By David Keane

Bringing down the empires of the ‘Mr Bigs’ is at the forefront of an operation to tackle organised crime across Greater Manchester unveiled today, and communities are being urged to tell police who are involved.

The Chief Constable, Sir Peter Fahy, has branded much organised crime and its ‘insidious effects’ as coming from the same families – and a region-wide multi-agency initiative will aim to put a stop to them.

From drug dealing to firearm smuggling, Greater Manchester Police will target every element of a criminal’s life, including business interests, properties, benefits, and their associates.

Also on the target list will be pubs and clubs who give criminals a haven for dealing drugs, and those who chauffer round those involved.

Supported by the Home Office, the operation is being piloted in the Tameside and north Manchester areas – but will be rolled out across Greater Manchester and perhaps even nationally.

Sir Peter 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.

Sir Peter puts long term change for communities at the top of his list of priorities and claims that by working together in partnership, the operation can put a stop to the ‘misery’ criminals cause.

Powers will include freezing criminals’ assets, evicting them from their homes, seizing their cars or stopping their benefits – not to mention arrests.

A series of warrants were issued today across the Greater Manchester forces – including those targeting loan sharks who work for organised criminals, funding their crime networks.

Assistant Chief Constable Steve Heywood, who is Greater Manchester Police’s Gold Commander for the operation, said: “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.”

The crackdown aims to take away the legitimate business fronts that disguise illegal activity, and ACC Heywood pointed out that stopping criminals obtaining mortgages will be one method.

“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,” he said.

The police are calling upon communities and residents to come forward and tell them who are the criminals in their area.

“At the heart of this operation is the needs of the community,” ACC Heywood said. “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.”

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.”

Picture courtesy of Greater Manchester Police, with thanks.

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