Three people have been arrested and a quantity of cash and suspected drugs seized following the launch of a Home-Office designed project in Wirral today (Thursday, 18 May 2023) to tackle organised crime groups.
The Clear, Hold, Build project, which will be known locally as EVOLVE Wirral, will see Merseyside Police working with partners and residents in the Woodchurch, Noctorum, and Beechwood estates to disrupt and deter organised crime group (OCG) activity and help stop neighbourhoods being exploited by these criminals.
Merseyside Police was one of the first forces to pilot Clear, Hold, Build with Beechwood Together on the Beechwood estate in 2022.
In January 2023, the Home Office announced a national roll-out of its Clear, Hold, Build strategy to help reclaim and rebuild areas at risk of significant harm from criminal gangs.
EVOLVE Wirral is one of three EVOLVE projects in Merseyside and is an expansion of Beechwood Together.
It follows the launches of EVOLVE Liverpool and Knowsley last August after the murders of nine-year-old Olivia Pratt-Korbel, 22-year-old Sam Rimmer and 28-year-old Ashley Dale, and EVOLVE Netherton which launched last month on the Park Lane estate.
As part of the work the force is carrying out to clear OCG activity on the Woodchurch, Noctorum, and Beechwood estates, officers have made 379 arrests, 740 stop searches and executed 90 warrants and searches between January 2023 and April 2023. Work will remain ongoing to protect communities and prevent gangs operating in those areas.
Seizures from that period include cannabis plants with an estimated yield of £1.3million, a large quantity of suspected Class A and B drugs, £25,000 worth of goods from targeted retailers linked to OCGs, more than £13,000 in cash suspected to be derived through criminal activity, two machetes, three samurai swords and a Rolex watch worth around £10,000.
The Hold phase, which began alongside the operation to clear the area of gang-related activity, aims to help disrupt and minimise serious and organised crime with a targeted increase of officers to provide community reassurance and gather intelligence.
The activity today marks the start of the Build phase, which aims to regenerate areas blighted by crime with community and partner-led initiatives and will run alongside the Clear and Hold phases which are continuous.
Assistant Chief Constable Jon Roy said, “Serious and organised crime devastates lives and poses a significant threat to our communities. This is the third EVOLVE project we have deployed in Merseyside to help tackle organised crime groups and the misery they bring.
“The approach sees police working more closely with partners to root out and prosecute not only those involved in serious and organised crime but also their enablers and facilitators who support and profit from this criminality.
“EVOLVE projects intend to take communities blighted by gang-related activity on a journey of regeneration, building long-term resilience against organised crime groups, breaking the links in OCG recruitment by preventing those at risk from being drawn into crime and helping to prevent future threats to safety.
“We are committed to tackling OCGs and are pursuing these criminals and their affiliates with the full force of the law, using all powers and tactics available to us.
“Together with our partners we are focussed on tackling the causes of crime, building stronger communities and protecting vulnerable people so these areas marred by OCGs can be rebuilt into places people love to live, work and visit.”
Merseyside’s Police Commissioner Emily Spurrell added, “Serious, organised crime has a devastating impact, bringing pain and suffering to families and blighting our communities.
“I am absolutely committed to supporting Merseyside Police in their relentless approach to disrupting the corrosive organised crime groups who seek to inflict such misery.
“We have already seen the difference the first two phases of EVOLVE Wirral have made in tackling criminality and helping to improve the lives of people in Woodchurch, Noctorum and Beechwood and I would like to thank those communities for their vital co-operation with officers and our partners in this initiative.
“The Build phase is crucial in demonstrating to local people that, with their support, we are determined, to help make this area a safer, stronger place to live.
“EVOLVE will play a vital role in this process and I’m pleased to join so many partners to support this action today.”
Throughout the day, a large number of officers including those from roads policing and the mounted sections, worked alongside partners as part of the ongoing and relentless work to eradicate organised crime groups and their activity and rebuild the communities affected
Officers executed five warrants at addresses in Woodchurch and Birkenhead and carried out an open land search in an area of Woodchurch.
An investigation is ongoing after a 32-year-old woman and a 24-year-old man from Woodchurch and a 31-year-old woman from Birkenhead were arrested on suspicion of possession of criminal property and have been taken to a police station in Merseyside for questioning.
Officers also recovered several thousand pounds and a quantity of cannabis and suspected Class A drugs.
Police officers alongside staff and officers from Wirral Borough Council, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service, Magenta Living, Community Connectors, and other community organisations did a community walkabout – providing health and safety advice and information about funding as well as taking action to improve the look of the area with clear-up initiatives, waste and planning graffiti removal.
Local primary schoolchildren also joined in on the day with litter picks while children from Fox Field and Meadowside will be creating artwork about what community means to them which is hoped will be displayed in the area.
Mark Camborne, Assistant Director of Neighbourhoods, Safety & Transport at Wirral Borough Council said, “The EVOLVE project is not just about tackling organised crime groups, it’s about making it more difficult for them to operate by regenerating areas and building community resilience.
“This approach will see police forces working more closely with local partners to prevent those at risk from being drawn into crime.
“Not only will EVOLVE implement holistic measures to disrupt the activity of criminals in Wirral, it will proactively strengthen these areas, previously blighted by serious crime, enabling residents to live safely and happily.”
Sam Cummins, Magenta Living’s Anti-Social Behaviour Neighbourhood Manager, added, “Our principal aim is to provide quality homes in safe and sustainable neighbourhoods and we take any form of anti-social behaviour very seriously.
“We’re proud of the work that we do through our partnerships with the Police, local authorities and agencies. Being part of EVOLVE Wirral further reinforces the great work that our housing officers and tenancy enforcement officers do.
Group Manager for Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service Franny Hill added, “As part of our support for the EVOLVE project, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service (MFRS) are providing free Home Fire Safety Checks in the Woodchurch, Noctorum and Beechwood estates.
“Our crews and Prevention staff will be testing fire alarms to ensure they are working correctly and provide fire safety guidance to anyone we engage with on the day.
“MFRS staff work on the front foot in our communities and in people’s homes, every day of the year to keep people safe from fire. By working with our partners on these important initiatives, we can deliver the best possible outcomes for the people of Merseyside in all aspects of community safety.”
“It is so important that we listen to the needs of customers and residents to make sure that we are effectively tackling any form of anti-social behaviour by acting against those who cause nuisance and distress in our neighbourhoods.”
Partners involved in EVOLVE projects include Merseyside Police, Merseyside’s Police and Crime Commissioner, local councils, Merseyside Fire and Rescue, housing associations, health services, schools, colleges, local businesses, community groups and residents.
Partners work closely to share information and identify hot spots that need transforming as well as using targeted activity to remove and disrupt organised crime groups. They will also provide advice and services, particularly to those who may struggle to access help while residents are encouraged to be active in saying what improvements they would like to see and where.
Areas that will be focussed on include: the living, working and recreational environment for residents, opportunities for young people, help with employment, assistance to access funding, health issues, crime prevention and security advice.
Anyone with any information about crime is asked to call Merseyside Police on 101, or Crimestoppers, anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Images: Merseyside Police