Greater Manchester ‘has 176 gangs’ – almost a quarter have access to firearms

Police chiefs estimate that 176 organized crime groups – OCGs – currently operate in Greater Manchester, with almost a quarter of identified gangs believed to have access to firearms. Drugs are said to remain the “main type of crime” for the vast majority of organized crime groups.

Of the 176, 55 active organized crime groups are said to be ‘impacting the city of Manchester’ – representing 31% of all known OCGs in Greater Manchester. Oldham and Salford have the second highest numbers of organized crime groups, with 19 and 18 respectively, a new report reveals.

The data and details are contained in a new crime strategy launched by Greater Manchester Police to tackle criminal gangs. Crime gangs in Greater Manchester largely focus on guns, money laundering, modern slavery and human trafficking, child sexual abuse and crime, according to the strategy’s report. organized acquisition.

Studies, according to the police, have also found an increase in the number of OCGs involved in organized “acquisive” crimes, with 7% of all known gangs being involved in organized robberies, burglaries or vehicle thefts.

The report also reveals a ‘sharp increase’ in the number of UK-born victims of modern slavery, which correlates with the growing recognition of child exploitation as a form of modern slavery and human trafficking. humans. “Criminal exploitation now accounts for the largest number of potential victims in Greater Manchester, followed by sexual exploitation,” the report said.

Figures show that since 2016, recorded modern slavery crimes in Greater Manchester have risen by 69%, from 137 to 554 in 2021. ‘Greater Manchester’s complex protection teams work with up to 550 children and young people at risk of exploitation. at any time,” the report adds.

The new strategy was launched by GMP

It reveals that over 3,500 potential modern slavery cases were ‘triaged’ between December 2019 and December 2021, with 21 victims supported with individual support plans and 21 arrests directly resulting from the cases.

Police, however, say the overall picture of serious and organized crime in Greater Manchester is constantly changing – as criminal groups and individuals are better understood and tackled, and new threats emerge.

The Serious and Organized Crime Strategy has been developed by Program Challenger – a multi-group partnership that has worked together since 2013 to tackle individuals and networks operating in Greater Manchester.

The strategy sets out how the partnership will work together to support people who have been exploited by organized crime groups. It also emphasizes the prosecution of offenders and targeted actions to address county line operations, and how partners will take action to prevent people from becoming victims or perpetrators.

GMP Chief Constable Stephen Watson said in the report: “Across Greater Manchester, dangerous individuals and groups continue to harm individuals and their families through violent and exploitative crime. .

Armed police on patrol in Manchester

“Often victims are targeted because they are vulnerable for many different reasons. It is therefore crucial that we continue to work with a wide range of partners to prevent people from becoming victims, while vigorously addressing responsible offenders.

“Working with regional and national law enforcement, we have seen an unprecedented number of Encrochat-related arrests as part of GMP’s response to the National Crime Agency’s Operation Venetic. With more than 200 suspects arrested, Program Challenger’s central and local teams have been instrumental in achieving this through strong leadership and effective governance.

“While we want to celebrate the successes, as a partnership we recognize that much more needs to be done. We are committed to continuing to work closely with our partners and communities, who are essential in the fight against the people involved in organized crime.

“We are committed to investigating all crimes and relentlessly disrupting organized criminals. GMP is seizing more criminal assets. We know that many of the problems we face will only be solved by working together.”

Drugs – production, transport and supply – would remain the “primary type of crime” for 144 of the identified GCOs, which equates to the vast majority.

Police say investigations are now increasing knowledge of the clusters of ‘secondary and tertiary types of crime’ being engaged in – which would include money laundering generated in the UK and overseas, criminal exploitation and use and supply of firearms.

Stephen Watson, Head of GMP

“At least 23% of identified OCGs in Greater Manchester have access to firearms, but it is likely that many more will be able to gain early access to firearms,” ​​the report said.

Crucially, police also identified that a “large proportion” of OCGs operating in Greater Manchester “increasingly cross boundaries between local boroughs, police force areas and regions” – which the county line operations are called.

The report adds: “There is increasing diversity in the types of crimes committed by those involved in serious and organized crime and many BCGs will be involved in multiple criminal activities at any given time (polycrime).

“A better understanding of how organized criminal groups operate highlights the hidden ways in which organized and serious crime affects our communities. Serious and organized crime is not limited to certain communities or individuals, and there is a vital role that can be played by everyone who lives, works and socializes in the city area in understanding and reporting it. “

The report highlights GMP’s successes: in 2021, over £7million was seized from people involved in serious and organized crime in Greater Manchester.

Following a series of disputes in the Cheetham Hill and North Manchester area, officers recovered an Uzi machine gun and large quantities of Class A drugs, along with £20,000 in cash. Five members of a BCG were later sentenced to a combined total of over 50 years in prison.

Drugs remain a ‘primary type of crime’ for BCG

Priorities of the Serious and Organized Crime Strategy include:

– Targeted action against serious and organized criminals, stopping the problem at the source.

– Support opportunities for building resilience within communities, with a focus on prevention of victims and perpetrators.

– Work collaboratively to develop innovative and evidence-based approaches.

– Improve understanding of current and emerging threats.

– Support an enhanced partnership response through information sharing.

Police chiefs said the strategy was “much more than a piece of paper”.

Chief Inspector Claire McGuire, of Greater Manchester Police, said: “It is a commitment to the people of Greater Manchester that we will leave no stone unturned in our quest to keep communities safe and eliminate harm and the misery caused by this type of crime.

“The impact of serious and organized crime is significant and can manifest itself in many ways, but by working closely with our partners, we can build on the success the Challenger program has already had in dismantling criminal groups and stop them in their tracks.

“I hope the launch of this strategy will send a clear message to communities that their safety is our priority and that we will not sit idly by and let organized criminals wreak havoc on our streets. We will relentlessly pursue the people involved and encourage anyone suspicious to feel confident in reporting them.”

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