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An inspection of the North West Regional Response to Serious and Organised Crime

THE His Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Service (HMICFRS) have been preparing a report that asks the questions that the public would ask, and also to publish the answers in an accessible form. The findings of:- "PEEL 2022/23" have now been published. These findings will also be use by HMICFRS to make recommendations for improvement.

Data taken from the APMIS on:- 4 January 2023 showed that within the North West Region, 938 Serious and Organised Crime (SOC) threats had been identified. This is the highest number of threats identified in any Region, and more than double the number in any other Region.

In this report the data showed that within the North West Region's 6 forces:- Cheshire Constabulary, Cumbria Constabulary, Greater Manchester Police, Lancashire Constabulary, Merseyside Police and North Wales Police, together with their ROCU, the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit (NWROCU) the Region experiences high levels of SOC when compared to the other Regions of England and Wales. Data taken from the APMIS on 4 January 2023 showed that the North West Region had identified 938 SOC threats. This is the highest number of threats identified in any Region and more than double the number in any other Region.

It is extremely encouraging to see that the Merseyside Police was the only Force in the North West to activate a rating of:- 'outstanding' at tackling serious and organised crime, within our area.

On hearing this news Merseyside Police Chief Constable Serena Kennedy has acknowledged the hard work of her Officers and staff within the Force, and their fight against serious organised crime. She has also pledged to ensure that the Force's relentless approach will continue in earnest.

Chief Constable Kennedy, said:- "In 2022 5 families in Merseyside were plunged into the depths of despair and grief after offenders involved in serious organised crime killed members of their families with firearms on the streets of Merseyside. 2 of the individuals, Thomas Cashman and Connor Chapman, who were responsible for the murders of Olivia Pratt-Korbel and Elle Edwards, have been tried at court and are now serving:- 42 and 48 years respectively. Those sentences will have brought the families some sense of justice, but sadly they too are serving their own life sentences and nothing will take away the pain they have suffered and are still suffering. The murders last year showed why we are committed to a relentless approach to tackling serious organised crime. We know that despite strong enforcement and prevention activity, which has resulted in the severe disruption of organised crime gangs, there are still a minority of individuals who are prepared to use firearms on our streets and bring misery to our communities through the wholesale distribution of Class A and B drugs. These people are toxic in our communities and we will do everything we can to take them off the streets so the majority of people in our communities can enjoy their local facilities and spaces safely and without fear. Our Officers and staff are fully aware of the devastating impact serious organised crime, involving gun and drug offences, can have on families and communities and that is why Merseyside Police is relentless in its approach to tackling serious organised crime. Since 1 April-8 November this year we have seen firearms discharges on Merseyside fall by 64.5%, that is down from:- 31 to 11, for the same period the previous year! And the 'outstanding' grade given to the Force for the work it undertakes to tackle serious and organised crime is testimony to the work being done by people across the force every day and I am exceptionally proud of what they achieve every day. We know that enforcement activity alone won't solve the problem and working with our partners we are educating our young people about the dangers and consequences of becoming involved in serious organised crime. Project Medusa, which is our response to County Lines, works together with more than 60 partners (including:- Everton in the Community; Liverpool Foundation; Catch 22; Cells Project; Sports Traider, to name but a few), to provide safeguarding, support and interventions for vulnerable young people and adults, who have been exploited by County Lines Groups, or are vulnerable to exploitation. Since the 1 April 2019 our County Lines team, working with partners, has Safeguarded 1451 children and vulnerable adults. Operation Stonehaven is also engaged in preventing people from being exploited through a number of educational programmes including the Trainee Detective Programme run in conjunction with EITC; the engagement of young people through drama with the Terriers and Eve's Story. The report recognises that the force effectively uses analysis to understand and prioritise threats from organised criminals. And cites that the Force Intelligence Bureau (FIB) is pivotal in "directing the force's resources in the fight against organised crime. The report also refers to the:- 'well established' partnership working carried out by the force, with local authorities, National Crime Agency and North West Regional Organised Crime Unit (which has also been graded as Outstanding for its work on SOC) for both enforcement and prevention."

Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner Emily Spurrell responded:- "I welcome this very positive report by HMICFRS, recognising the outstanding approach Merseyside Police is taking to tackling serious organised crime. Serious and organised crime groups spread fear and intimidation within the communities they operate, bringing misery to the lives of innocent people and often using vulnerable young people to do their dirty work. Through initiatives like Op Evolve, Project Medusa and Operation Stonehaven, Merseyside Police is relentless in identifying, disrupting, and bringing offenders to justice, whilst supporting and safeguarding those most at risk of harm and exploitation. This is supported on a Regional level by the NWROCU and I'm pleased they too have been graded as outstanding in this work. This report, coupled with a recent reduction in firearms discharges, is testament to the commitment, determination, and hard work of Merseyside Police officers, PCSO's and staff to keep our communities safe and my thanks go to them for everything they do, day in day out. Prevention is critical to this work, and I am pleased inspectors recognised the strength of Merseyside's Police partnerships and its determined efforts, supported by our Violence Reduction Partnership, to get upstream and stop vulnerable young people getting drawn into a life of crime. This is vital if we are to continue to see serious violence reduce. I'm determined to do everything I can to support the Chief Constable and her workforce as they continue to pursue those organised crime groups, prevent vulnerable young people from getting drawn into crime and make all our communities safer and stronger."

Assistant Chief Constable Jo Edwards, added:- "The NWROCU works collaboratively with our 6 North West Forces to tackle Serious and Organised Crime. As our lead force, the NWROCU works closely with Merseyside Police, as it does with each of our Regional Forces, to support and lead activity to protect our communities. Today's report reflects the strength of the coordination and partnership between our Regional forces and stakeholders to understand and tackle the threat from serious and organised crime. The horrific events seen in Merseyside during 2022 are unfortunately examples of the significant harm that those involved in serious and organised crime can have on communities, incidents which will have lifelong effects on families and communities. The collective strength and drive of our approach to SOC is a demonstration of our continued resolve to relentlessly disrupt those individuals and groups involved. The report highlights the level of threat that emanates from within the Region, the grading of outstanding reflects our collaborative ability to understand and tackle those who seeks to cause such harm through criminal acts."

A fantastic example of the groups successes was in 2022, with Operation Venetic, that resulted in:-

  • Arrests = 217

  • Charged = 177 people for offences, including:- firearms supply, drug supply and drug importation.

  • Drugs recovered = 109kg Cocaine, 24kg heroin, hundreds of kilo's Class B.

  • Cash recovered = Approximately £1.8 million.

  • 4 firearms and ammunition recovered.

  • 149 people sentenced to a total of 1747 years in prison.

To read the report please click on here.

What are your thoughts and views on this news about our local Police Force? Email our Newsroom at:- News24@SouthportReporter.Com or send us a message on:-  Mastodon, Facebook or Twitter.

Merseyside's firefighters called to fewer deliberate fires throughout the bonfire period than in 2022

FIREFIGHTERS attended:- 25% less deliberately set fires across Merseyside, on:- Bonfire Night 2023, than on the same date in 2022, and deliberate fires throughout the entirety of the bonfire period were down:- 18.9%.

Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service (MFRS) attended:- 24 deliberately set ASB (anti social behaviour fires; this includes:- bonfires, wheelie bin and rubbish fires; between:- 00:00 hours and 23.59 hours, on Bonfire Night, as opposed to:- 32, on:- 5 November 2022.

On Bonfire night, the majority of areas covered by MFRS, that includes:- Liverpool, Sefton, and St Helens, saw a reduction in deliberately set fires, while Knowsley, and Wirral saw an increase.

Sefton saw a decrease of:- 2 incidents, from:- 5 to 3 fires. Liverpool saw a reduction of:- 10, from:- 16 to 6 fires. St Helens also saw a decrease of:- 3 fires, from:- 4 to 1, and finally Wirral saw an increase of:- 3 fires, from:- 5 to 8.

Liverpool saw the biggest reduction in deliberately set fires this year, with fire crews attending:- 6 deliberate fires, down from:- 16, in 2022.

MFRS also attended almost ½ as many potentially dangerous bonfires. Firefighters attended:- 6 potentially dangerous bonfires on 5 November 2023, compared to:- 13, in 2022.

Wirral and Knowsley saw the highest number of such bonfires; with fire crews attending 2 within each area. Firefighters attended 1 bonfire in Liverpool and Sefton respectively, and none in St Helens.

Crews attended less incidents related to fireworks; (down to:- 3, from:- 8 in 2022; on:- 5 November 2023.) Throughout the entirety of the bonfire period, crews attended 12 fewer firework incidents, with 10 incidents attended against 22 for the same period the previous year.

Throughout the whole bonfire period, firefighters have attended 142 deliberately set fires, down:- 18.9%, from 2022, when they attended:- 175 call outs.

In total, Fire Control received 188 emergency 999 calls on:- Bonfire night, a decrease of:- 16.8%, from 2022's figure of:- 226. Throughout the entire period, Fire Control received:- 1,099 emergency 999 calls; ahain down:- 10.2%, from 2022's figure of:- 1,224.

Group Manager for Community Safety, Franny Hill, said:- "We are pleased to see that the majority of people across Merseyside enjoyed a safe Bonfire Night. Whilst we saw a decrease in the number of deliberate fires on 5th November itself, the reduction in the number of ASB fires throughout the bonfire period is great to see and is undoubtedly down to the work the Service and partner organisations have done during this period. I would like to thank all staff at Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service that have been involved during the period, with our Control staff doing a fantastic job of handling calls throughout. What is concerning is the number of firework incidents we have seen this year; 10 across Merseyside. A number of these have involved fireworks posted through letterboxes and windows; this behaviour is totally unacceptable. It may seem like a laugh or a bit of fun, but this kind of behaviour has very serious consequences. Whilst we are lucky that no 1 has been seriously injured as a result of these incidents, they could have very easily resulted in a fatality. As well as seeing a reduction in the number of deliberate fires throughout the period, we also saw a reduction in the number of attacks on our staff. We work extensively with schools to reduce this kind of behaviour and would like to thank them and parents for discussing consequences with young people. Unfortunately, there was still a small minority of the community that chose to attack the very people who are trying to keep them safe. Sadly, this is not specific to Merseyside and has been experienced by fire and rescue services across the country. Firefighters and support staff are not targets; they are members of your community who go above and beyond every day to keep you safe. They do not deserved to be attacked for simply doing their job."

GM Hill added:- "On November 5, we take a tolerant view of bonfires; if they are in the open, supervised by adults and under control we do not extinguish them. Those we attended and put out on Saturday; those included in our statistics; were all considered to be dangerous. We would ask members of the community to be mindful of the proximity of bonfires to houses and the dangers they pose. The bonfire period is always extremely busy for us as a Service, though extensive advance planning and partnership work with Merseyside Police, local authorities, registered housing providers and other community partners mean we are able to keep the number of incidents down. In recent weeks, firefighters and the prevention team have been out with our partners in communities clearing away more than 100 tonnes of hazardous rubbish and fly tipping, which could have been used as fuel for fires, and promoting the safe storage of wheelie bins to help prevent them becoming targets for arson. We are thankful to our communities for taking on board our safety messages and advice, and for their support throughout this period."

As we move into winter, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service urges everyone to make sure they have at least 1 working smoke alarm on every level of their home and to ensure it is tested regularly.

For free fire safety advice or to request a home fire safety check, call 0800 731 5958. You can also complete a free online home fire safety check. Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service also provides free smoke alarms for Merseyside residents aged:- 65 or over.

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