The organised crime capital of England is right here in Lancashire, a new police report claims.
There are more than 200 gangs in the county actively involved in a range of offences including serious violence, child abuse, human trafficking and drug dealing.
The figures are taken from a national police database mapping the UK’s 5,500 crime gangs, which have a combined 37,000 members.
It means Lancashire has a higher proportion of organised criminals than anywhere else in the country – including Liverpool and Manchester.
Although police in those cities have recorded a higher number of criminal networks, they make up a smaller percentage of the population.
Experts say the county acts as a ‘gateway’ for gangs in those North West crime hubs, as members pass through as they distribute drugs and weapons throughout the region.
Lancashire Police said it was committed to tackling the problem, which it described as ‘hugely damaging’ to communities.
A recent report on organised crime in the county found drugs and gang violence were among the most ‘significant threats’ in Lancashire.
A summary of the report, produced as part of Safer Lancashire’s strategic assessment of the county, added: “There has been an increase in intelligence reports and referrals regarding trafficking for sexual and labour exploitation. This is clearly an area of significant harm to the victim.”
It said the rise in reports could be down to increased police work around the problem, rather than more crimes being committed.
Figures revealed in a HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) report into regional organised crime units (ROCUs) reveals the scale of the problem in the region.
It shows Lancashire has more than 145 organised crime gangs per million people living in the county – the highest rate in England and Wales. Merseyside comes a close second, followed by the Metropolitan Police and Cumbria.
However, the HMIC report warns ‘inconsistent’ use of the mapping tool by forces means the figures for some forces may not reflect the true scale of the problem. It says units such as TITAN, the North West’s specialist organised crime unit, are ‘vital’ in tackling the gangs but says more can be doe to build on their success.
A Lancashire Police spokesman said: “Our neighbourhood officers, local targeted crime units and serious organised crime unit all work together with local partners to identify and target those who cause the most harm to our neighbourhoods, be that through the dealing of drugs, firearms activity, child sexual exploitation, human trafficking and cyber-crime.
“Critical to our success is our work with the regional organised crime unit, with whom we coordinate the development of intelligence together with determining how we pursue offenders and bring them to justice – our success is also built on working with our public who we would ask to report any information of concern regarding serious organised crime.”
HM inspector of constabulary Zoe Billingham, who led the report, “The public need to be reassured that ROCUs are working effectively and efficiently to protect us from some of the most dangerous and serious criminals.”