Police intensifying efforts to tackle ‘counterfeit street’ with weeks of raids
“Do some real policing,” an onlooker shouts as police arrest three men on ‘counterfeit street’ in Strangeways. The building they enter is filled with counterfeit goods, from fake Gucci T-shirts to fake Givenchy perfume. And while many consider shops selling knock off goods for the fraction of the real price a victimless crime, it is often just a front for much more organised, and serious, crime.
Money laundering, immigration offences, drugs trafficking, sexual offences, just to name a few. As we drove down Bury New Road towards Strangeways in a marked police car it was clear we were being watched. Eyes became fixed on our car and phones were quickly taken out before the shutters on most stores were pulled down to conceal what could be inside.
Many of these could have been ‘spotters’, who are constantly on the lookout for the police or council so shops can quickly hide their crimes, and have been accused of intimidating other legitimate businesses and shoppers who are in their territory. READ MORE:Multiple shops on ‘counterfeit street’ shut down as network of ‘intimidating’ spotters discovered But the target today was a shop opposite the infamous prison and within sight of the AO Arena and city centre.
The blue lights came on at the last second, with a man sprinting from the premises tackled to the ground by plain clothed officers as he tried to escape. Uniformed officers, tactical aid unit officers, and even members of City of London police quickly entered despite the shops best efforts to get the shutters down with three arrested under trademark offences. A crowd soon gathered recording every moment. “I was just coming to get a GBP15 Boss tracksuit,” said two cheerful men coming to get some “cheap clobber”.
The shop was filled with counterfeit clothing, shoes, and other items
“It’s alright we’ll come back tomorrow,” they laughed, and they might not be wrong.
Police have been out all week in and around Cheetham Hill, on Bury New Road – Manchester’s famous ‘counterfeit street – as part of Operation Lucena, trying to finally get on top of the organised crime that is behind the counterfeit shops. A number of properties have been raided, with 10 arrests made, thousands of pounds of money seized, and drugs, especially viagra, taken. But Chris Maddocks, head of economic and cyber crime at the north west regional organised crime unit, who was leading the operation today doesn’t want an ‘eat, sleep, repeat’ approach, where there are just endless raids but the crimes aren’t stopped. “We can’t just arrest our way out of this,” he says.
Three arrests were made during the raid
This view is furthered by Detective Superintendent Neil Blackwood, who is leading the operation as a whole.
He’s adamant this week of ‘intensification’ is not a one off, and they want to finally rid the area of its ‘counterfeit street’ tag. He said: “This week of intensification is about so much more than the counterfeit goods trade, which Cheetham Hill and more specifically the Strangeways area is nationally known for. The trade, which often involves organised crime groups, is strongly linked to money laundering and immigration offences.
We also know the area is a hotspot for sexual offences and traffic offences.
Detective Superintendent Neil Blackwood (Image: GMP)
“Too often unbeknownst to members of the public who buy counterfeit goods, they are often produced using poor quality materials and/ or banned substances which put health at risk. Ourselves and our partner agencies are committed to ridding this area of criminal activity and will use all powers at our disposal. “We will be taking proactive and robust action against this trade in Strangeways.
Members of the public can be reassured that this is a priority for us.” DCI Maddocks added: “Tackling this is really important to us, especially as it is so important to the community here. These offences are seen as a victimless crime, but it supports really serious organised crime.
A lot of money goes into these set-ups, it’s always a pleasure to take this money as we can then put it into community projects.
This raid was one of many carried out already this week – with more to come
“I spoke to a neighbouring business owner during the raid and they have so many frustrations over these shops so it was great to be out in such force today. “Times are hard for people at the moment and it’s understandable that people want cheap goods but when these goods are purchased you don’t know where this money goes to. We’re starting to see drug activity going on from this which is leading to violence in the area.
“What we want to do is cut the head off the snake and stop any of this taking root in the community. We can’t just arrest our way out of this problem. Today was a severe disruption to businesses and there’s no doubt we have seized millions worth of drugs this week.
Many of these buildings are completely unsafe too, it’s only by the grace of god that nobody has been hurt in one of these yet.” Detective Sergeant Adam Williams from the Police Intellectual Property Unit (PIPCU) at the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit (NWROCU) said: “This week’s activity should send a clear message that we will stop at nothing to tackle this issue and it’s a priority we will continue to crack down on. The counterfeit goods trade isn’t a victimless crime.
“Often criminals use the profits to fund other organised crime, and with that often comes violence, which can have devastating effects on the local community. The staff employed to run these counterfeit shops are often vulnerable people who are paid below the minimum wage, whilst the criminals enjoy lavish lifestyles from the proceeds of their crimes.” For more of today’s top stories click here.