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Weapons and drugs haul before they can hit Harlow’s streets

News / Mon 16th Nov 2020 at 07:37pm

WEAPONS and drugs imported from abroad and destined for Essex are being intercepted before they can hit the streets and cause harm in our communities.

Essex Police and UK Border Force have been working closely on a faster referral system for dealing with drugs, prohibited weapons and firearms components that are flown into the UK via a postal hub near Heathrow.

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More than 120 parcels of weapons and drugs have been intercepted in the last nine months, and the project – called Operation Gloss – has been highlighted for praise by Home Secretary Priti Patel.

UK Border Force staff identify suspicious packages that come in via international mail and pass them to Essex Police for investigation. 
Depending on the individual circumstances of each case, this could result in the people buying these items being arrested or having their homes searched. 

Alternatively, it may be more appropriate to resolve matters through a caution or community resolution, or referring them to a diversionary scheme. In some cases, it might mean working alongside the Essex Violence and Vulnerability Unit to safeguard people who are being exploited by criminals, to educate about knife crime, and support them to safely exit gang life or a controlling relationship. 

Since the new referral system started in February, we’ve received 123 notifications about suspicious packages. Of these, 67 contained weapons and 56 contained drugs.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “Knife crime and serious violence wreak havoc in our communities, which is why we are giving police forces more resources and powers to keep the public safe.

“Action like Operation Gloss, along with the wider efforts of police, Border Force and other law enforcement agencies, are vital when it comes to stopping dangerous weapons reaching our streets.”

Some of the significant seizures of weapons we’ve had include:

In August, a warrant was carried out at an address in Loughton, where officers found weapons including knuckle duster knives, daggers, CS spray and batons. A man was arrested on suspicion of weapons offences and our investigation remains ongoing.

In May, a warrant was carried out at an address in Harlow, where officers found weapons including stun guns disguised as mobile phones, a walking stick with a concealed knife, and a bracelet with a concealed knife. A 55-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of weapons offences and our investigation remains ongoing. 

Detective Chief Inspector Lewis Basford, of the Serious Violence Unit, said: “Ultimately we’re making sure these weapons and drugs don’t get onto the streets of Essex.

“Working with Border Force, we are quickly identifying buyers and taking appropriate action.

“Sometimes we find that people buy items online and don’t realise they are illegal in the UK. In those cases, our approach is primarily to explain and educate. 

“But we are also identifying individuals who are knowingly committing offences but think they can get away with it. They won’t.”

Weapons that have been seized include flick knives and samurai swords, which are illegal to import.

In one case someone had bought an extendable baton to protect their dog from being attacked by another dog. In another, someone had bought a samurai sword for display on their wall.

This ongoing partnership work with Border Force also comes ahead of new legislation, which will make it an offence to possess certain weapons in a private place, and to deliver or arrange deliver certain weapons.

DCI Basford said: “Tackling knife and drugs crime can’t be resolved through enforcement alone.

“Helping people understand the law and the impact of buying, carrying and using weapons is just as important.

“If we can intervene at the earliest opportunity we can prevent people from being harmed and help young people steer away from crime.

“That’s where our prevention and safeguarding work with the Violence and Vulnerability Unit and ongoing work with professionals working in social care, public health, youth offending services, and charities, is vital.”

The Essex Violence and Vulnerability Unit carries out joint operations, interventions, awareness and education programmes to support young people who are being, or at risk of being, exploited and involved in crime. 

The unit – which is mainly focused on gangs, county lines and child criminal and sexual exploitation – is a multi-agency partnership, bringing together Essex Police, the Office for the Police Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex, Youth Offending Service, Probation Service, councils and health service to share information, tackle crime and safeguard vulnerable victims. 

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