Good response to SOC highlighted at Greater Manchester and Lancashire forces

Greater Manchester Police (GMP) and Lancashire Constabulary have both been rated ‘good’ in their response to serious and organised crime (SOC).

Nov 10, 2023
By Paul Jacques
Picture: University of Cambridge

Both forces were graded as part of an assessment on the effectiveness and efficiency of the North West regional response to SOC by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS).

In particular, GMP’s response was recognised as ‘good’ and ‘innovative’ while the inspectorate highlighted that Lancashire Constabulary understands and manages the threat from serious and organised crime and sets priorities to tackle it.

The HMICFRS report, published on Friday (November 10), found that “significant improvements have been made” to address the cause of concern at GMP, which was identified during the 2021 inspection.

The report also highlights two areas of innovative practice – saying the force “effectively targets SOC in high harm locations”, recognising the successes of operations Vulcan and Avro; and “successfully targets criminal finance”.

GMP’s Economic Crime Unit (ECU) is responsible for freezing bank accounts and confiscating criminal assets, such as money/property. In the 2022/23 financial year, the unit recovered more than £15 million from offenders and contributed to the development of a process to return money to victims – which has been shared nationally as an example of best practice.

GMP said the ECU is on track to secure a place in the top three best performing police forces in the country in terms of asset recovery, for the second year in a row.

Through the Asset Recovery Incentivisation Scheme (ARIS), confiscated assets are reinvested into communities – funding projects which contribute to the prevention and reduction of crime. In the past few months, these have included youth zones, sports clubs, and theatre companies which educate young people on the dangers of carrying knives.

Economic crime is just one unit within the force’s multi-discipline Serious and Organised Crime team, which is made up of 130 police officers and staff who are invaluably supported by district-based colleagues posted to local Challenger teams.

Detective Superintendent Joe Harrop, head of Serious and Organised Crime, said: “This is welcome recognition for the force and the team – in recent years, we have taken huge steps forward on our journey to improve the response to serious and organised crime.

“Whilst we have previously been able to evidence progress using data – such as the 70 per cent decrease in firearms discharges in five years and a 42 per cent decrease in homicides in the last year, HMICFRS’s report recognises that we have improved our assessment of threat and our understanding of the roles of ourselves and partners.”

Since the beginning of the year, the dedicated County Lines team has recorded the recovery of more than 20kg of drugs and 43 weapons from the streets of Greater Manchester, 194 arrests, 142 charges, and the sentencing of 27 offenders to a combined total of 95 years imprisonment. Alongside local Challenger teams, whose work has recently been showcased by the BBC Two documentary ‘The Detectives: Taking Down An OCG’, 72 vulnerable children and young people to safeguarding services to prevent them from coming to harm.

Det Supt Harrop added: “Whilst responding to incidents and investigating crime is a large part of what we do, we are absolutely committed to stopping offenders in their tracks and early intervention to prevent vulnerable people becoming victims.

“Through our local Challenger teams and Complex Safeguarding Hubs, we are intrinsically linked with partner agencies who help us identify those who are at risk and engage with them in an efficient way which effectively reduces risk.”

Lancashire Constabulary said it has good governance structures to manage performance on SOC and holds regular well-attended meetings to discuss its approach.

“We promote a culture that tackling serious and organised crime is everyone’s responsibility as part of our Operation Warrior brand and we work well with partners to share information about threats as part of Operation Genga,” the force said.

“The report focused on our innovative practice in tackling exploitation linked to modern slavery and human trafficking through Op Genga and the Pan Lancashire Anti-Slavery Partnership.

“The inspection team also found that we seek to reduce the threat to those vulnerable to SOC through schemes such as Project Adder in Blackpool.”

Lancashire Constabulary’s head of Serious Crime and Intelligence, Detective Superintendent Graham Hill, said: “I’m really pleased that the inspectorate has recognised the good work we do in tackling serious and organised crime in Lancashire which I’m sure is a result of the dedication and tireless work taking place across both our specialist teams and the force as a whole as part of #OpWarrior.

“We work closely with our partners around the threat of organised crime, as part of our Op Genga work, to ensure our communities are safe from dangerous offenders such as drugs and firearms dealers, fraudsters, cyber criminals and many more.

“We will build on this good report and continue to work both with the National Crime Agency, the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit and other forces across the region and the UK to take the fight to criminals and ensure there are no safe spaces in Lancashire for serious and organised criminals,

“I would like to thank all our officers and staff for their continuing commitment and dedication in the fight against serious and organised crime.”

Police and crime commissioner Andrew Snowden said: “I welcome this report and I’m delighted to see it acknowledge the proactive and innovative approach we take to targeting organised crime gangs here in Lancashire.

“As the report highlights, disrupting and dismantling serious and organised crime is a top priority in my Fighting Crime Plan for Lancashire and Op Warrior, the Constabulary’s dedicated, force wide operation has been put in place to deliver against this, with some fantastic results tackling organised crime in the county, with significant increases in arrests, drug and cash seizures, alongside community intelligence to Crimestoppers.

“I’m also pleased to see recognition for the constabulary’s Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking coordinator post, funded by my office. This role is key to facilitating partnership working across Lancashire through the Pan-Lancashire Anti-Slavery Partnership.

“I continue to support the constabulary to ensure they have the resources needed to keep up this momentum and continue to take the fight to criminals.”

In 2022, HMICFRS changed its inspection on how well police forces tackle SOC to incorporate inspections of the ten regions, as well as the nine regional organised crime units (ROCUs) across England and Wales, and the 43 police forces.

GMP and Lancashire Constabulary are two of the six forces that make up the North West region, along with Merseyside, Cumbria, Cheshire and North Wales, together with the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit.

North Wales Police was rated ‘inadequate’ in its response to SOC, with the inspectorate highlighting that the force should make sure that it has enough resources to tackle SOC effectively and that its workforce understands it is a “priority” threat.

Cumbria Constabulary was graded as ‘requires improvement’ after inspectors found there was not enough analytical capacity in the force to fully understand and manage the threat from SOC.

Cheshire Constabulary was rated ‘adequate’ while Merseyside Police was graded as ‘outstanding’ for the sixth time since its first inspection back in 2016.

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