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PCC secures £6 million government backing to combat drugs, violence, exploitation and organised crime in Bedfordshire

PCC secures £6 million government backing to combat drugs, violence, exploitation and organised crime in Bedfordshire

Bedfordshire Police is set to receive millions of pounds of extra funding to combat drugs, violence, exploitation and organised crime.

The £6.3 million funding awarded by the Home Office will directly support operations specifically set-up to tackle this multi-faceted and interlinked criminal activity in Bedfordshire.

The force’s Boson and Costello teams have dedicated officers and staff leading the fight against gangs and organised crime, in recognition of the need to effectively tackle the significant threat posed by these issues in the county.

Today (Wednesday) police have also released a new video outlining some of the successes both Boson and Costello have achieved since they were established in 2018 and 2020 respectively. 

The new government funding will be split between both operations, which between them have made close to 1,000 arrests, seized millions of pounds worth of drugs and taken dozens of firearms off the streets.

Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner Festus Akinbusoye said: “This is a major boost for our ongoing work to tackle organised crime and disrupt county lines activity in our county.

“The threats these gangs present to our villages, market towns, and urban areas is of serious concern to me, which is why I continue to make this funding bid to the government.

“Part of my job as Commissioner is to ensure that our force has the resource it needs to deliver policing objectives and this is an example of me doing that.

“Whilst this special grant is not a permanent funding arrangement, it is however an acknowledgement of the unique situation we face in Bedfordshire by the government.”

Detective Chief Superintendent Duncan Young from Bedfordshire Police added: “These specialist teams are working tirelessly to disrupt organised criminal activity and tackle gang related crime in all areas of the county.

“At the core of this work is relentlessly pursuing those involved in the illegal drugs market. This is consistently the gateway through which young people are exploited into a life of crime, as well as driving violent crimes including the use of firearms, knives and other weapons.

“The work of Boson and Costello alongside our colleagues across Bedfordshire Police is making a real difference to our communities, alongside the work of our partners. This cohesive approach and that voice and information from our communities themselves is essential to success.

“This fresh funding should serve as a warning to our county’s gangs and organised crime groups – we won’t stop coming after you.”

Boson leads the response to gangs and gun crime in the county, running Sparkler and Rowan patrols in hotspot areas for things like drug dealing and serious youth violence as well as running its own investigations.

Officers from Boson are also heavily involved in partnership safeguarding and protecting young people from violence and exploitation, including chairing the county’s MAGPan and Serious Youth Violence panels.

The unit has taken 47 illegal firearms off the streets, arrested 833 people and seen 183 offenders jailed for a total of 621 years.

Launched in Spring 2020, Operation Costello is Bedfordshire Police’s biggest ever operation to tackle serious and organised crime across the county.

It comes after law enforcement cracked the Encrochat communications network used exclusively by criminals. A significant number of people were found to be using this network in Bedfordshire.

Ever since, Costello detectives have been carrying out investigations and taking down organised crime groups involved in multi-million-pound drug operations, as well as raising awareness about the risks posed by cannabis factories and so-called professional enablers.

Under the Operation Costello banner 119 arrests have been made, with 36 people jailed for a total of 258 years so far. Almost 20 kilos of Class A drugs and 64 kilos of cannabis have been seized, with more than £3 million in criminal assets being investigated.

In addition, Bedfordshire’s Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit (VERU), which works directly with young people at risk, has since 2019 received £4.05 million from the government, with the force getting £3.4 million of funding over the same timeframe for further enforcement activity to tackle serious youth violence.

VERU director Kimberley Lamb said: “Our ethos is that violence and the exploitation is a public health issue that can be prevented if everyone works together.

“The police are a big part of that approach in terms of taking enforcement action against those who cause our community harm – as well as working alongside us and other agencies to protect and safeguard young people at risk.

“While we know there is a lot more we can and must do to keep young people safe in Bedfordshire, there is a comprehensive plan in place across the county to do that and this funding is a great boost to those efforts.”

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