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Drugs, guns and cash seized as part of EVOLVE initiative

by Jonathan Kearney

Hundreds of thousands of pounds’ worth of drugs, two guns and more than £100,000 in cash and luxury goods have been taken off gangs in Liverpool and Knowsley this month (March 2023).

Fifteen people have also been arrested during the month, which culminated in another day of action today (Friday, March 31 2023), as Merseyside Police officers engaged in the EVOLVE project have been working tirelessly to help break the cycle of gang culture on the streets of Dovecot, Longview, Yew Tree, Huyton and surrounding areas.

Together with partners in Liverpool City Council, Knowsley Borough Council, Riverside Housing, Livv Housing Group, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service, schools, colleges and community groups, officers have been working to breakdown organised crime groups.

Throughout March, officers seized cash, three high-powered performance vehicle cars, a luxury watch, 1kg of crack cocaine, 1.5kg of suspected ecstasy, 1000 tablets of suspected Class A drugs, 271 cannabis plants from two cannabis farms and 6.5kg of cannabis.

Officers also seized one quad bike, one scrambler bike, one mountain bike, two e-bikes and a knuckle duster; carried out searches in 10 premises; and made several referrals to partners for housing and drug misuse. A Trading Standards operation at Dovecot shops also saw £800 worth of counterfeit cigarettes seized.

The assets will be sold and converted into money under the Proceeds of Crime Act, which will see cash and goods seized from the gangs given back to the community through Participatory Budget events where community groups submit bids for portions of the money in a Dragon’s Den style setting.

The first Participatory Budget event for the EVOLVE project in the area will take place in June 2023.

Local community groups will be able to attend up to four ‘community cafés’ before the event where they can submit bids to claim up to £5,000 from a £100,000 funding pot.

The initial café will take place on Thursday, April 27 2023, from 9am to 1pm at the L14 Community Centre, The Gate, Princess Drive in Huyton.

Chief Inspector Tony Fairhurst, one of the senior officers on the EVOLVE project, said: “Our officers working in EVOLVE neighbourhoods, which are those that have been identified as suffering most from organised crime groups, are committed to eradicating the pain and misery those criminals’ cause.

“We want to make it clear to those criminals that the life of crime they have chosen is not the profit-making option they thought it was.

“We will be using all the powers available to us to take back their ill-gotten gains. We will be seizing their cars, their watches, their cash, their luxury commodities, their drugs and we will be giving the proceeds back to the communities they have blighted.

“We will be stopping those suspected of being involved in crime, their family members, their friends and their business associates. We know who they are and we will be using all the legislation we can to determine if they are staying on the right side of the law and those found on the wrong side could be facing lengthy prison sentences.

“We are going to be breaking their recruitment models and are going into schools, along with our partners and community groups, with a very powerful message to young people who are at risk of being coerced into a life of crime.

“This activity is not a one-off. We have EVOLVE teams whose jobs are dedicated to tracking these criminals, their associates and taking those found to be breaking the law off the streets. We are determined to help residents in EVOLVE neighbourhoods and ensure they are once again places people love to live, work and visit.”

Throughout the month officers have carried out numerous warrants, land searches, traffic operations, high visibility policing out on the streets, visited local primary schools, had mobile police stations for people to raise concerns and have been working with partners and the communities.

Andrew Donaldson, Knowsley Council’s Executive Director for Communities and Neighbourhoods, added: “Working closely with our community safety partners we are tackling crime in our communities.

“We want residents in EVOLVE neighbourhoods to feel safe and live without fear of organised crime disrupting their lives.

“To achieve this it is essential we maintain the good work that has already been carried out as part of EVOLVE and ensure criminal gangs have nowhere left to turn.”

If you have any information about crime in your area, please call Merseyside Police on 101, or contact the force’s social media desk on Twitter @MerPolCC or Facebook at ‘Merseyside Police Contact Centre’.

Alternatively, contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. Always call 999 if a crime is in progress.