WATCH: Christmas crackdown as police hit the streets to target gangs
Police officers have been out in Wolverhampton to stop gangs and curb violence in the run up to Christmas.
‘It’s getting to the time of the year when people will do anything to get away – because they don’t want to be inside for Christmas’.
Those are the words of a West Midlands Police sergeant who took to the roads in an unmarked car in a bid to disrupt gang activity.
Sgt Gary Barton, from Wolverhampton Police’s task force, was among officers – and an inspector – to take to the “hotspot” of Whitmore Reans in a bid to catch criminals.
Around eight large-scale gangs operate across the city, with the names of each group constantly changing which makes it “difficult” to keep a track of.
WATCH: Police explain aims of operation
Knife crime focus for force
Police officers, led by Inspector Stephanie Furber, help to tackle burglaries, domestic violence, knife crime and thefts along with gangs and other crimes.
Extra man-power is being used to help tackle the issue of youth violence through Project Guardian – with young people under 25 highlighted for intervention.
“We’re looking at youths aged 25 and under, predominantly around knife crime,” Sgt Barton said during his briefing to the team.
“We try to lockdown the area with a mixture of plain clothes and other officers with marked vehicles on the periphery.
We find drug dealers and users will carry a knife as some form of protection.”
Whitmore Reans was chosen as part of the operation due to a “lot of gang activity” and it being a “huge crime area” as temperatures started to dip.
Numerous cars were sent out by the force as part of the lockdown of the area to snare criminals, with unmarked and regular cars part of that.
Social media used to alert gangs
Sgt Barton, along with Pc Adam Davenport, were among those patrolling the streets in the area along with other officers.
They used an unmarked car to help gain “an extra few seconds” which can help them identify suspects before their cover is busted.
But their job is made more difficult when an unmarked vehicle is “pinged” – or identified – by someone who will then broadcast the message through groups on social media, letting dealers know the force is in the area.
The unmarked vehicle was identified early on by a man, who was standing on the street corner and pointed and laughed at the officers as they drove past.
But that didn’t stop the task force making an arrest, however – albeit a non gang-related one – with a man who was wanted for two years snared on the streets.
Almost half an hour later Sgt Barton and Pc Davenport, along with other officers, were on the scene after a car and GoCarz taxi crashed on the junction of Glentworth Gardens and Gorsebrook Road.
Later, during a routine patrol around Lowe Street in the area, the officers appearance caused a youngster in a blue parka jacket to flee.
The man, smoking near the road sign to Manby Close, spotted the officers in the unmarked car and fled – using a short-cut to head through to Craddock Street and evade officers, despite their efforts, among other incidents on a busy night for the team that also incorporated the East Park area.
Gang crime brings turf wars to city
Earlier this year the Express & Star investigated the increased prominence of gang culture across Wolverhampton.
We heard how gangs waging postcode wars are using social media to provoke rival gang members, leading to “chaotic behaviour” and tragedy.
Teenagers as young as 13 are members of new youth gangs based around postcodes and are using weapons in Wolverhampton, according to neighbourhood policing inspector, Steve Worker.
They record music videos and share them on YouTube, firing off verbal attacks at other gangs, which then provokes a physical retaliation.
2019 has brought an increased focus on violence - including a six-year-old boy being injured after a sawn-off shotgun was fired at his family home in April.
In Wolverhampton, Heath Town, Graiseley and Blakenhall are areas police are seeing youths form postcode gangs, an issue that has been escalating for about five years.
The situation in Wolverhampton is replicated in big cities across the UK. Its basis is the human instinct to hold and protect territory.
Insp Worker, speaking earlier this year, said: “This year we’ve started to see a few more incidents with guns and firearms. It’s not regular, it’s been sporadically.
“Something triggers it, then there is chaotic behaviour and tragically people do get hurt, but then there’s nothing for the next few months."
He added: “We’ve got a number of tactics in place to try and understand what is going on.”
Specialist teams were established working on ways to disrupt violences.
This included having more police on the streets, sending officers into schools and working proactively to stop potential crime.
Insp Worker said there is a specialist gangs team that looks at the intelligence and tries to disband the gangs, as well as an offender management team.
And victims of violent crime admitted to hospital are now being supported by a new team of youth workers stationed at Wolverhampton's emergency department.
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