CLOCKING on their shift at Warrington Police Station on the morning of June 6, 2016, detectives were alerted to a burglary in the town involving a targeted raid and the theft of a high-powered vehicle.

While an investigation was immediately launched, over the next two months officers were able to connect this crime with a string of other similar offences across the region. 

Like putting together the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, detectives at the Warrington-based police taskforce were able to uncover the tracks of an organised crime gang who inflicted misery on victims across the north west and left a trail of destruction behind them.

Martin Cleworth, from the north west’s regional organised crime unit (TITAN), said: “It was a fascinating and outstanding bit of police work.

“These gangs tend to work out of an urban city centre environment – quite often from Merseyside and Manchester.

“They are an organised crime group. They feel if they can operate across a wider geographical footprint then it will be much more difficult for forces to put all the links together and catch them.

“Their biggest mistake was underestimating the capabilities of a relatively small but determined team of Cheshire officers led at the time by DS Adrian Priest and his colleagues.”

Under Operation Acidify, officers were able to identify that between June 6, 2016, and August 2, 2016, the gang of four men had targeted 15 residential and business properties in a series of burglaries and robberies.

In one incident two of the men carried out a robbery at a convenience store wearing balaclavas and armed with a crow bar and a claw hammer.

They used vehicles they had stolen in burglaries to try to cover their tracks.

But justice soon caught up with them. 

Paul Ellis, 36, Jamie Downes, 31, Lee Gallagher, 31, Alan Daniels, 34, who were all from Kirby, were sentenced to a combined total of more than 20 years at Liverpool Crown Court in May. 

Supt Cleworth added: “There are organised criminals who will commit all types of different elements of criminality which have a wide and significant impact on the victims.

“They committed a number of different burglaries in Warrington where high-powered vehicles were being taken which we managed to link forensically.

“They would then use the vehicles to commit other offences including robberies across the country with vulnerable members of staff – often female cashiers.

“Effectively they were just trying to get their hands on cash and valuables and they didn’t care who stood in their way.

“Fortunately on this occasion our police team were able to stand in their way as they linked up all the dots through forensics.

“We were then able to deploy some sophisticated and covert methods to follow the gang and eventually struck them down in Derbyshire when they were about to commit another offence.”

Supt Cleworth spoke to the Warrington Guardian during the launch of TITAN’s latest campaign to crack down on criminals who wreak havoc in the community.

He added: “If you look at the burglary of a high-powered car in isolation you can miss the bigger picture.

“Often the vehicle is taken and stored because of his capabilities and fixed up on false number plates.

“Then they will use that vehicle to commit other offences.

“And what we see with these types of gangs is the risks they are willing to take and their complete disregard for members of the public or police officers’ safety.

“Even the risks they take with their own safety is quite astonishing.

“They will be using these vehicles at 100 to 130mph and they won’t stop for the police –  it is a very dangerous position that our colleagues have to put themselves in to bring these people to justice.

“That’s the sort of behaviour that we saw with this gang.

“Between the four of them they were sentenced to around 20 years in prison.

“It also shows that when you present this case to the judiciary they take this type of crime seriously.

“These are dangerous and sinister organised criminals.”

Detectives and experts in forensics painstakingly piece together evidence from mobile phones and CCTV footage connecting the suspects to the scene of the crimes.

But in order to bring these types of criminals to justice, police forces are often reliant on information from members of the public.

“When dealing with this level of criminality we will always say that the public should not intervene,” said Supt Cleworth, who is in charge of regional collaboration and firearms at TITAN.

“It’s not worth risking your own safety. Always call the police if you see anything suspicious. But you should always think about the wider picture.

“These people who are organised criminals need to live within estates where members of our community live.

“You might know someone who is involved in crime and likes to pretend they are the ‘big I am’.

“They act as if they are some sort of Robin Hood do-gooder who is stealing from rich people in a victimless way but that’s not the case.

“We have heard from people about the impact it has on them.

“These ill-gotten gains will be squandered on themselves to live lavish lifestyles and what we are also seeing is the money is quite often ploughed into other crimes, particularly drug dealing and the purchase of firearms, to give them greater power and control over other individuals.

“That’s what this is about – power and prestige.

“It’s about them furnishing a lifestyle at the expense of other people.”

THE north west’s six police forces have teamed up with the regional organised crime unit (TITAN) to tackle a rise in cash-in-transit (CIT) robberies. 

The number of CIT robberies, where a security guard delivering or collecting cash from a business or ATM is targeted, has risen from 41 in 2016 to 60 so far in 2017. 

While launching the campaign at Haydock Racecourse on Tuesday, DI John Smith has called on the public to join the fight to tackle this type of criminality.

“By bringing the public on board we can get some more success stories and start having an impact on this serious organised crime,” he said.

“This is by no means a victimless crime. These robberies can cause deep distress to those at the brunt of the attacks, who are just trying to earn an honest living.”

The campaign will see officers using both high-visibility and covert patrols on the ground and in the air to escort security vehicles as they carry out their day-to-day deliveries. 

A number of other tactics will be deployed this month including armed police patrols escorting high-risk security vehicles.

DI Smith added: “The resources that we use as a police force to stop this type of crime is very high. We all work together effectively to detect criminals and protect those frontline staff.” 

To read more pick up a copy of this week's Warrington Guardian.