Home Community and neighbourhoods EVOLVE campaign in Knowsley: one year anniversary

EVOLVE campaign in Knowsley: one year anniversary

by Jonathan Kearney

EVOLVE, a Home Office-backed Clear Hold Build project launched following three murders in August 2022, has seen a reduction in crime in the area, with five significant offenders being sentenced to 215 years in the last 12 months.

EVOLVE Liverpool-Knowsley was officially launched last January 27, in parts of Huyton, Longview, Yewtree, Dovecot, Page Moss and immediate surrounding areas in response to the murders of nine-year-old Olivia Pratt Korbel, 29-year-old Ashley Dale and 22-year-old Sam Rimmer.

The project sees police and partners including Knowsley Council working closely together in communities impacted by serious and organised crime to create stronger, safer and more resilient neighbourhoods.

Since the launch, 662 people have been arrested with arrests increasing by 16 %, intelligence from the community has increased by 78%, all crime has fallen by 6%, knife crime and wounding have decreased by 57%, anti-social behaviour has dropped by 26%. In the same period emergency calls have decreased by 3% and priority calls have also fallen by 12%.

Violence with injury has risen by 12%, although this category includes domestic abuse and the higher number of reports is reflective of increasing confidence in the police by victims.

Officers have also seized in excess of 150kg of suspected Class A and B drugs, nearly £490,000 cash, 28 offensive weapons, four firearms, carried out 71 warrants and 1,539 stop searches.

Offenders who have received significant sentences since the start of EVOLVE Liverpool-Knowsley include:

  • Thomas Cashman, 35, from Liverpool, was sentenced to 42 years for murder, attempted murder and possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life on 4 April
  • Niall Barry, 26, from Tuebrook was sentenced to 47 years for murder, conspiracy to murder, and conspiracy to possess a prohibited weapon on 22 November
  • James Whitham, 41, from Huyton was sentenced to 43 years for murder, conspiracy to murder, and conspiracy to possess a prohibited weapon on 22 November
  • Sean Zeisz, 28, from Huyton was sentenced to 42 years for murder, conspiracy to murder, and conspiracy to possess a prohibited weapon on 22 November
  • Joseph Peers, 29, from Roby was sentenced to 41 years for murder, conspiracy to murder, and conspiracy to possess a prohibited weapon on 22 November

A number of other offenders are currently on remand awaiting trial.

Chief Inspector Tony Fairhurst, one of the senior officers involved in EVOLVE Liverpool-Knowsley, said: “Tackling organised crime and protecting communities are key priorities for Merseyside Police.

“When we launched EVOLVE our overarching aim was to dismantle the gangs, stop serious and organised crime and make our neighbourhoods safer and more resilient for generations to come.

“I am delighted that as a partnership we have made some fantastic in-roads and achieved some significant successes in the area as seen by the reduction in crime and increase in public confidence. However, this is only the start of our journey.

“We want to see these changes and the shift in attitude towards serious and organised crime, and those embroiled in it, become embedded in these communities, so people don’t hesitate to contact us or Crimestoppers anonymously if they spot the signs of gang activity.

“There should be no place for criminals to hide and we are determined to make this a reality. Some significant offenders are going to be old men when they finally leave prison and we hope this sends a strong message to those thinking of getting involved in drugs and other illegal activity.

“We are committed to making a long-term change for those living and working in EVOLVE Liverpool-Knowsley and through the participatory budget event in June that delivered £100,000 to organisations to benefit the area, the Kicks programme, and investment from the PCC and other partners we look forward to continuing to work with residents to make our communities safer for all.”

Other successes from partners include the seizure of 931 illegal vape products by Knowsley Trading Standards that led to two prosecutions and ongoing work with The Big Help Project to secure funding to tackle an area of land in Dovecot that has become an environmental blight with fly tipping and rats and has also been used to hide weapons. Future plans for the land include growing produce to assist with poverty crisis.

Activity carried out by Knowsley Council services within the EVOLVE area over the past 12 months includes:

  • Residents consulted on improvements to Jubilee Park, with plans drawn up
  • Environmental health action days held in Page Moss tackling littering, fly tipping, graffiti, dog fouling and pest control
  • Health roadshows visiting EVOLVE areas
  • Local school children involved in cultural projects
  • Major improvement works carried out at Primrose Court
  • New children’s play equipment installed at Hillside Community Centre, as well as improvement works to the surrounding green spaces
  • A number of community walkabouts organised by the Crime and Communities team in conjunction with partner agencies.

To commemorate the one-year anniversary police and partners from Liverpool City Council, Knowsley Borough Council, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service, housing associations and health bodies gathered at Jubilee Park, Huyton on Friday, January 26 for a day of action in the surrounding areas.

Enforcement officers from Trading Standards and Licensing carried out activity supported by police; officers on quad bikes and horses were in attendance to speak to people and help tackle any ASB, alongside MFRS and housing officers from Riverside, Livv Housing, Prima and Onward Housing who spoke to residents and helped carry out litter picks in the area.

Throughout the week a production of GRASS by Perception Theatre has been showing in local primary schools, culminating in a show at Olivia’s school St Margaret Mary’s Catholic Junior School in Huyton on Friday afternoon.

The week-long productions were funded by EVOLVE and aim to challenge the labels ‘grass’ and ‘snitch’, increase awareness around actions and consequences and educate young people about the importance of a moral compass.

Rebecca Wilkinson, Headteacher at St Margaret Mary’s Catholic Junior School, said: “Olivia loved to perform herself and would have enjoyed seeing the performance in school.

“It is a very powerful production which I’m sure will have a big impact on our pupils. Olivia touched the lives of everyone who knew her and she will forever remain a much missed member of our school community.”

Councillor Shelley Powell, Knowsley Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities and Neighbourhoods, said: “Serious and organised crime has no place in our communities.

“The EVOLVE campaign has already helped dismantle criminal enterprises in Knowsley and we will continue to work closely with partner agencies to ensure people feel safe and happy where they live, without the fear of organised crime disrupting their lives.

“This ongoing commitment to our residents will not stop. We must continue to work together to tackle organised crime and leave criminals with nowhere left to turn.”

Merseyside’s Police Commissioner Emily Spurrell added: “Over the past 12 months, EVOLVE has made a vast improvement to the lives of people living in Liverpool and Knowsley. Hundreds of arrests, dangerous weapons seized, stolen property recovered, and drugs removed from the streets.

“By clearing out those organised crime groups that blight our communities and prey on the vulnerable, Merseyside Police and our partners have worked hard to hold on to these areas, making it impossible for criminal groups to return and uniting with residents to build 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. Through days of action like today, we can continue to bring people together, strengthening community spirit and 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.”

As part of EVOLVE, Everton in the Community and LFC Foundation have been delivering a weekly PL Kicks session at Lord Derby Academy since July 4, 2023 and have supported more than 70 young people during this time, engaging them in a wide range of positive activities and providing them with a safe place to be with the aim of keeping them off the streets and away from negative influences.

EitC Kicks Senior Coordinator John Rawlinson said: “These sessions provide local young people from across Knowsley with a space to come and play football without judgement and ultimately, help to break down any barriers in regards to the areas in which they live.

“Our sessions are also supported by a volunteer called Tom from Everton Football College who supports our coaches where needed. Tom has helped to raise the aspirations of our young people, some of whom are now looking to join the college once they leave high school.”

Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service (MFRS) Group Manager and Community Safety Lead Mark Sopp added: “MFRS has been active in and around the EVOLVE area over the past 12 months.

“We have continued to complete routine activities such as Home Fire Safety Checks (HFSC’s), hydrant walks, business visits, etc and to take part in partner days of action as well as working hard to reduce ASB related incidents in the area.”

EVOLVE’s Silence is Not an Option campaign aims to educate people about the signs of gang activity and encourage reporting to break the cycle of gang crime by making an anonymous report to Crimestoppers.

To learn more and make an online report see here: Give information 100% anonymously about organised crime in Merseyside | Crimestoppers (crimestoppers-uk.org)

Alternatively, anyone with information about crime can call Merseyside Police on 101, or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.