Investigations by the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit (ERSOU), the specialist policing unit responsible for tackling regional organised crime across the East, have resulted in offenders being jailed for more than 100 years in 2020.
ERSOU’s Regional Organised Crime Unit (ROCU) is tasked with managing the threat posed by crime types such as drugs, firearms, child sexual exploitation and cybercrime, among others.
Throughout the year some of the region’s most prominent criminals have been jailed following ERSOU investigations.
Highlights from 2020 included:
- Between April and July, as part of an international operation to take down the encrypted messaging service Encrochat, ERSOU and forces in the east of England:
- Seized and destroyed over 400kg of Class A drugs
- Arrested 88 people
- Seized £3m in cash, 10 firearms and 229 rounds of ammunition
- In September, the final offender in an organised crime group (OCG) which imported heroin and cocaine to a commercial unit on a rural Hertfordshire farm was jailed, bringing the total sentence for the four men involved to 50 years. The operation was later shown in a two-part special series of 24 Hours in Police Custody watched by over six million people
- Two brothers from Norfolk were jailed for total of 24 years in January after admitting to selling illegal firearms
- In February, a drug dealer from Peterborough who hid four guns under children’s play equipment in his garden was jailed for 14-and-a-half years
Officers use a range of specialist tactics and work closely alongside police forces and partner agencies to disrupt dangerous offenders operating across Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Kent.
In addition to those already convicted, the unit’s economic crime team also worked relentlessly to pursue the benefits of those thought to have made money through illegal means.
Offenders were made to pay back £2.25m as a result of confiscation orders made under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) legislation, while more than £1.3m was secured as compensation for victims of crime.
Hannah Wilkinson, head of the ROCU, said:
“This year has presented some incredible challenges for all of us, but criminals don’t take breaks and our investigators continued to work tirelessly throughout the year to pursue those looking to bring harm to our communities.
“There’s a huge amount of work taking place behind a large number of operations which often doesn’t make it into the public domain, and I’d like to thank everyone involved for their tenacity and commitment to keeping the region safe.
“We’re looking forward to continuing to protect the public across the eastern region from the threat of serious and organised crime in 2021.”
Kathryn Holloway, Police and Crime Commissioner for Bedfordshire Police, the lead force for ERSOU, said:
“2020 has marked a year of quite exceptional achievement by the regional unit, following up on National Crime Agency leads and those it has cultivated itself to seize cash, weapons and drugs to an unprecedented extent and truly make the east more hostile than ever before as a region in which to operate as an organised crime group across all seven force areas.”