Essex Police officers and staff have been commended for their bravery, tenacity and innovative work which brought a gang of dangerous offenders to justice and resulted in jail terms totalling more than 51 years.
The Essex-based organised crime group targeted cash machines, vehicles, homes and commercial premises across Essex, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Surrey, the Thames Valley and in London.
Altogether, nine men were arrested for a range of crimes committed between 24 March 2018 and 5 March 2019. It is estimated they committed more than £1million of thefts and damage.
The men – eight from Harlow and one from Hastings – were jailed in October 2019 at Chelmsford Crown Court for a total of 51 years and 11 months.
During the investigation by the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, two other gangs committing similar crimes were identified. Those investigations were handed over to the Metropolitan Police’s Flying Squad and the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit, who made six further arrests.
Our Chief Constable Ben-Julian Harrington commends officers and staff who put themselves in harm’s way to protect people and to save lives. A Chief Constable’s Commendation is one of the highest honours he can bestow.
And, at a series of ceremonies, Mr Harrington recognised the work of some of the many Essex officers and police staff involved in this investigation, which also led to their learning being shared with forces nationally to change the way they tackle this type of crime.
“Each offence had a huge impact on the local community – they often occurred at small shops and petrol stations in rural areas and affected residents’ access to cash. “I am incredibly proud of the achievements of everyone involved in the investigation. It was dangerous and challenging but they did a fantastic job. “In fact, it was the most challenging job I have worked on in my 28 and a half years as a police officer. It was very apparent they would do pretty much anything to get away once they had committed these offences. Officers were threatened at one scene and an officer in another force was injured by one of the suspects. “We had to use pretty much every policing tool we had to identify and capture them and some of the things we did had never been tried before in UK law enforcement. “We learned lessons about firearms deployment and tactics have been modified nationally to assist in the apprehension of this type of criminal. “And, behind the scenes there was an enormous amount of work going on to collect the evidence which led to the arrest and then, afterwards, to take statements, revisit unsolved cases to determine whether they were connected and to prepare the case for court.” Detective Chief Inspector Paul Lopez, one of the senior investigators involved in the investigation
Alongside the officers and staff commended, Police Dog Tex was also commended for his outstanding bravery in capturing two suspects. Tex tackled one of the men who was struggling with two police officers, enabling him to be safely detained. Then he tracked another suspect to where he was hiding, allowing him to be arrested, too.
“It was the most complex job of its kind the country has ever seen. Evidence showed gang members wouldn’t hesitate to attack police when confronted and members regularly put members of the public at risk by driving vehicles at extremely high speeds. “But the bravery of officers confronting them and the willingness of officers and staff in our technical teams to push the envelope and develop new tactics to deal with the challenges presented by a gang who were very dangerous and forensically aware was fantastic. “It was their willingness to think outside the box and adopt new ideas, to tackle these criminals head on and to liaise with other specialist teams, which enabled them not only to stop the gang in their tracks but to obtain significant jail terms when the cases came to court. “The innovations and learning from this investigation have influenced the national policing approach to similar types of crime.” Chief Constable Ben-Julian Harrington
Thanks to the weight of evidence against them, eight of the men admitted the offences they were charged with, including conspiracy to commit house and commercial burglaries, conspiracy to commit theft and conspiracy to handle stolen goods. One was convicted after a trial. The judge also granted serious crime prevention orders against five of the men. These will last for five years following their release from prison.
Are you inspired?
People from all walks of life are applying to join Essex Police and everyone is welcome if you share our values and want to protect and serve our communities.
We value difference so, if the work of our brave police officers and staff has inspired you and you think you fit the bill and want to join our policing family, visit www.essex.police.uk/careers to see what careers we have to offer.