Manchester Police target 'Mr Bigs' of organised crime in dawn raids


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The Independent Online

Police have launched a series of early morning raids against the “Mr Bigs” of organised crime.

Officers smashed through doors at suspects' addresses in an operation aimed at crime families and gangs involved in everything from drug dealing, loan-sharking and theft to benefit fraud.

The focus of Operation Challenger is to target major criminals using a fresh approach and a new plan of attack, police said.

Assistant Chief Constable Steve Heywood, who is Greater Manchester Police's (GMP) commander for the operation, said: "This is not about cutting off the arm of an organised crime group, but dismantling it piece by piece, member by member.

"It is about agencies pooling their resources to target every facet of a criminal's life, putting them under so much pressure it is impossible for them to operate.

"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.

"That means taking away their means of transport by targeting the people who chauffeur them around. 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.

"It means closing down certain pubs and clubs so these criminals can't use them as a haven to deal drugs and line their pockets."

A new crime fighting hub has been established at GMP's HQ, which aims to fight organised gangs not just by police action but also by going after criminal assets and rackets.

The group includes representatives from organisations working with police including the Home Office, Border Agency, DVLA, local authorities, social services and the Department for Work and Pensions.

The team will investigate every area of a targeted criminal's life, including their business interests, properties, benefits, associates, as well as their involvement in drug dealing and firearms.

The operation has the support of the Home Office and is being piloted in the Tameside and north Manchester areas, with a view to rolling it out across Greater Manchester and potentially on a national scale in future months.

Since using the new approach in May, a number of major criminals have been charged with serious offences, with more than 100 arrests and drugs and cash worth £70,000 seized.

GMP Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy added: "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.

"These people have to be stopped which is why we have created this team who will identify who these individuals are, which criminal networks they belong to and look at every possible means of disrupting their lives."