Merseyside Police has launched a campaign urging people to break their silence about gang-related activity as part of the force’s ongoing work to tackle serious and organised crime.
The ‘Silence is Not an Option’ campaign focuses on changing attitudes towards reporting gang-related activity and increasing intelligence reports to Crimestoppers via a bespoke page created to anonymously report serious and organised crime in Merseyside.
As part of the campaign, police held a day of action on Saturday 30 September that saw officers across the EVOLVE areas carry out land searches; high visibility patrols; traffic operations checking for drink or drug driving, document and speeding offences; patrols on quad bikes of parks and open spaces known for anti-social behaviour; stop searches; and enforcement of suspected OCG members’ bail conditions.
The campaign builds on the call to action of silence is not an option following the murder of nine-year-old Olivia Pratt-Korbel last August 22, which saw a vast amount of information come from the community that ultimately led to the conviction of Thomas Cashman for her murder.
Cashman was given a life sentence with a minimum term of 42 years on April 3 2023.
The activity was also supported by ad vans parked in high footfall areas, including ASDA Huyton, featuring the campaign messages that highlight the need for people to break their silence on gang-related activity, cuckooing, knife crime and storage of weapons to help keep our communities safer for generations to come.
ACC Jon Roy, whose portfolio oversees EVOLVE, said: “Following the fatal shootings of five people in Merseyside in 2022, we have been relentlessly pursuing justice for their families.
“During this time, the community has stood strong and stepped forward with vital information that has led to the convictions of several offenders.
“The strength of Merseyside lies in our communities. We need to continue to harness this strength so we can rid our communities of the scourge of organised crime groups.
“Innocent lives have been torn apart by gang culture but together we can stop it.
“You need to ask yourself what would you do if you could stop lives being ruined? Stay quiet? Or speak up?
“We understand it might be difficult coming forward to the police, especially if you are concerned about gun or gang crime or live in an area particularly affected by it.
“However, you can contact Crimestoppers 100% anonymously. They do not ask for a caller’s name or record the call and they do not track IP addresses or locations when information is submitted online.
“Your information can make a real difference for generations to come.”
The campaign is predominantly based in the EVOLVE neighbourhoods and has been reaching the Merseyside public since the start of September via billboards, kiosks, supermarket kiosks, bus rears and interiors, Merseyrail escalator panels and train interiors, digital radio advertising, social media, targeted geo advertising on websites, GP surgeries, LFC, EFC and Tranmere Rovers match day programmes and ad vans.
It forms part of the Clear, Hold, Build partnership work Merseyside Police and partners are engaged in to rid Merseyside of OCGs and to rebuild the communities that have been most-affected by gang-related activity.
The three-phase initiative, known locally as EVOLVE, uses a combination of targeted high-visibility police operations and covert policing tactics alongside activity from partners and input from residents to protect our communities and prevent organised crime groups from operating.
The strategy sees police ruthlessly pursue gang members using all available powers and tactics to clear an area; continue activity to hold the location, so another gang can’t take control in the vacuum; and then work with residents and partners to build the community into a more prosperous area where people would love to live, work and visit and one less susceptible to being exploited by organised crime groups.
EVOLVE projects are taking place in areas of Wirral, Liverpool, Knowsley and Sefton. This is a long-term project and work will be continuous.
Partners involved in EVOLVE include Merseyside Police, Merseyside’s Police and Crime Commissioner, local councils, Merseyside Fire and Rescue, housing associations, health services, schools, colleges, Probation Service, local businesses, community groups and residents.
Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner Emily Spurrell said: “Serious, organised crime brings pain and suffering to innocent families and can have a devastating impact on our communities.
“While we have the seen the number of firearms discharges drop significantly in the past decade, we cannot stop until that number is zero.
“To achieve that we need the support of our communities. If you have any information or see anything that doesn’t feel right my heartfelt plea is please, do the right thing and speak out. By doing so, you could play a vital role in protecting the lives of innocent people and preventing further tragedies.
“Silence is not an option, and you don’t have to report your concerns direct to the police. Crimestoppers guarantees your anonymity and will never pass your personal details or location to officers.
“They have a long, successful history of successful arrests by police forces that have resulted from anonymous crime reports.
“Through the roll out of EVOLVE, we are working closely with all our partners to disrupt and deter these gangs, rooting them out of our communities.
“Reclaiming and rebuilding our most blighted neighbourhoods, so they are once again places people love to live, work and visit.
“By working together, we can stop those intent on violence and harm and make all our communities stronger and safer.
Councillor Shelley Powell, Knowsley’s Cabinet Member for Communities and Neighbourhoods, said: “Criminal gangs’ prey on and exploit vulnerable people and profit from people’s misery.
“Residents should not have to live with the fear of organised crime disrupting their lives. It’s vital that we all work together to tackle organised crime in our communities and ensure criminals have nowhere left to turn.”
To report a crime via the bespoke Crimestoppers page visit: Give information 100% anonymously about organised crime in Merseyside | Crimestoppers (crimestoppers-uk.org).
Alternatively, call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111, or Merseyside Police on 101.