Ongoing EVOLVE Wirral initiative leads to 800 arrests in 12 months

More than 800 arrests have been made and hundreds of thousands of pounds of suspected drugs seized in an area of Wirral where a Home Office Clear, Hold, Build initiative to improve communities affected by serious and organised crime was launched 12 months ago.

Known locally as EVOLVE Wirral, the Build phase, designed to build communities into more prosperous and safer areas resilient to gang-related activity was launched on 18 May last year. 

Since then, police and partners have been working hard to rid the areas of criminality while supporting and strengthening these communities.

As part of this work three participatory budget events took place earlier this year that saw 34 local organisations receive a total of £66,000 to help empower them to make a difference in their communities by providing activities and resources to assist with the prevention of crime and anti-social behaviour, tackle County Lines, protect vulnerable people and help reduce recruitment to gangs.

Nearly half of the funding pot was from money and assets seized from convicted criminals under the Proceeds of Crime Act with £25,000 made available for organisations in EVOLVE Wirral.

A day of action with police and partners is taking place in Beechwood today to celebrate the 12-month mark since the launch of the project with officers working alongside Wirral Council, Onward Homes, Wirral Ways to Recovery, Tranmere Rovers, Community Connectors, Wirral ASB team, and Trading Standards to carry out activity and engagement.

As part of the activity, police executed a warrant at an address in Beechwood and arrested a 20-year-old man from Bidston on suspicion of importation of a Class B drug and possession of a Class B drug with intent to supply. He was taken to a police station in Merseyside where he remains for questioning.

Officers undertaking a land search

Officers equipped with metal detectors and search equipment carried out land searches and discovered a suspected stolen motor bike, suspected stolen car, and an offensive weapon.

The mounted section and officers on quad bikes also attended alongside the mobile police station and officers carrying out bike marking at the Beechwood Recreation Centre as well as high visibility patrols.

Officers from Trading Standards carried out an operation in the area and seized 92 illegal vapes and 37 packs of illicit cigarettes.

In the last 12 months, officers have made 806 arrests related to organised crime groups (OCG), executed more than 60 warrants, carried out a significant number of stop searches, taken numerous weapons, including firearms, crossbows and knives, off the streets and seen considerable sentences handed to criminals.

Seven properties in the EVOLVE Wirral area linked to OCG activity have also been closed and tenants evicted.

Together with its partners, Merseyside Police has also seen thousands of counterfeit goods seized, rogue traders and retailers shut down, several community action days carried out to improve the areas, and numerous safeguarding referrals for child criminal exploitation (CCE) and child sexual exploitation (CSE) made.

Clear, Hold, Build is designed and partly funded by the Home Office, and sees Merseyside Police working together with partners and residents to disrupt and deter organised crime groups (OCG) and help rebuild neighbourhoods into places where people would love to live, work and visit.

The Clear phase of EVOLVE Wirral was launched in the Woodchurch, Beechwood, and Noctorum areas following the murder of Elle Edwards.

In the months following Elle’s murder, Merseyside Police worked hard to clear these areas of those involved in serious and organised crime which has resulted in the sentencing of Elle’s murderer Connor Chapman to 48 years in prison, four gang injunctions being served and numerous OCG members put behind bars.

Wirral Local Policing Superintendent Matthew Moscrop said, “The last 12 months have seen significant inroads being made in tackling organised crime in the EVOLVE Wirral neighbourhoods.

“Alongside our partners, we are committed to making a discernible difference to the lives of residents who have been living under the shadow of criminality and bring about a change in attitude to those thinking about becoming involved in gang-related activity.

“There has been a huge reduction in serious and organised crime. However, we are not complacent and work to clamp down on criminality as well as protect the vulnerable and help prevent crime will be ongoing and relentless.

“Police alone cannot tackle serious and organised crime. To have the greatest impact we need to be working together with residents, community groups and partners.

“While we have received a huge amount of intelligence from the community in the last 12 months as they see what we are trying to achieve, we need people to keep giving us information to make the greatest difference.

“People need to keep telling us, or Crimestoppers, anonymously, about the drug dealing, weapons storage, exploitation, anti-social behaviour and any other crime they see so we can take action and either get people off our streets or get them the help they need.

“Information given to Crimestoppers is completely anonymous – no-one other than you will ever know you made the report but that piece of information you have could be critical in potentially saving someone’s life so please make that report either over the phone or online.”

Merseyside’s Police Commissioner Emily Spurrell added, “Serious, organised crime brings pain and suffering to families, blights our communities and contributes to the spread of fear and intimidation. 

“Over the past 12 months, through EVOLVE Wirral, Merseyside Police has made hundreds of arrests, seized dangerous weapons, recovered stolen property, and removed thousands of pounds of drugs from the streets.

“These figures are a testament to the commitment of Merseyside Police, working in tandem with our partner organisations and local people, to clear those crime groups out of Woodchurch, Noctorum and Beechwood, vastly improving the lives of people living in those areas, by building stronger, safer places to live, work and play.   

“This doesn’t stop here; work is ongoing to improve the quality of life for the people in these neighbourhoods. We are determined to continue to strengthen community spirit by making sure these areas are places people are proud to call home.

“My thanks go to everyone who has supported this vital work over the last year.”

Wirral Council has been carrying out significant environmental improvements in the last 12 months.

In conjunction with funding from the PCC and Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service, three Environmental Action Days will be taking place in the area around the anniversary of EVOLVE Wirral.

One took place in Noctorum on 10 May and another will take place in Woodchurch on Friday 17 May, and the last will happen on Beechwood and Ballantyne on 24 May.

Cllr Helen Cameron, Chair of the Tourism, Communities, Culture and Leisure Committee for Wirral Council, said, “Since EVOLVE launched in Wirral, the council and Merseyside Police have been working alongside a range of other partners to disrupt and deter organised crime group (OCG) activity, help stop neighbourhoods being exploited by these criminals and build communities up so residents feel safer and stronger.

“This programme has the backing of law-abiding residents in the three target areas – Woodchurch, Noctorum and Beechwood – as EVOLVE Wirral isn’t only about tackling organised crime, it is about making it more difficult for crime groups to even operate by building community resilience and bringing about positive change, thus reducing the risk of local people being drawn into gangs.

“Not only is EVOLVE implementing holistic measures to disrupt the activity of criminals in Wirral, it is proactively strengthening these areas previously blighted by serious crime, enabling residents to live more safely and peacefully.”

Following the launch of EVOLVE Wirral, Onward has seen a 40% reduction in antisocial behaviour cases from 27 in 2022/23 to 16 in 2023/24.

Andrew Brown, Director of Housing and Specialist Living at Onward, added, “Working with partners such as Merseyside Police on this project has enabled us to improve how we respond to local instances of anti-social behaviour.

“Over the last year we have worked closely with Merseyside Police and other local partners to support the prevention of organised crime across the region through the EVOLVE initiative.

“The way neighbours behave can make a big difference to how happy our customers are in their homes. Initiatives like these are vital to empowering our communities. By working together to share knowledge and coordinate resources we can give our customers better outcomes.”

Anyone with information about crime is asked to call Merseyside Police on 101, or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

Alternatively, visit Crimestoppers’ website to make an online report here: Give information 100% anonymously about organised crime in Merseyside | Crimestoppers (crimestoppers-uk.org)

Images credit: Merseyside Police

Why not follow birkenhead.news on Facebook, Twitter, and Threads? You can also send story ideas or letters to the editor to news@birkenhead.news