Posts Tagged 'warrant'

In it for the money…

None for you, pimps! The lovely Proceeds of Crime Act enables us to seize back criminals’ ill-gotten gains and it’s the Payback Team that makes it all happen.

Pimps. Things they like: Big hats, diamond encrusted canes, fur coats, monster trucks, rubies.
Things they don’t like: The Proceeds of Crime Act and the good people at the West Midlands Police Force Payback Team.
Yes, there are few things little criminals like less than being told by a wig-wearing judge that they now owe several hundred thousand pounds following a calculation of a ‘benefit figure’ indicating ‘this is is what we reckon you’ve made from crime and so this is the amount we want back’.
I’ve written about the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 before, focusing on the legal side of what we can and can’t do when we’re looking to seize a drug dealer’s pet tiger from their rear garden in Goscote.
As for who are the people who makes the POCA wheels turn, allows me to introduce the Force Payback Team who are a specialist group of officers and support staff dedicated to ensuring that crime does not pay.
Working as part of a centrally based team, the Force Payback Team tend to become involved when as part of their investigations, officers out on the street come across people living the kind of lifestyles that their benefits payments probably wouldn’t cover.
Cash over a certain value can be seized and forfeited by the courts regardless of whether they are accompanied by a criminal prosecution.
The Force Payback Team can also apply for confiscation orders through the courts following a criminal conviction and includes a calculation as to how much someone has profited from their illegitimate pursuits.
Should the criminals ignore orders made against them, they can be sent to prison for up to 10 years and still have to pay the money back.  If not paid the courts can get receivers in to gather up all the Bugattis, cash, houses and anything else of value and haul them off to sell.
So far this financial year the Force Payback Team have been responsible for recovering over £3 million in cash and nearly £2.5 million in assets.
Of the recovered bounty, 50% is returned to the force and 50% finds its way to the Home Office whilst for assets, the force receives 18.5% of the total reflecting the work and greater number of agencies involved in recovering assets.
So then, we’ve done the hard work and one day an anonymous civil servant from the Home Office turns up at Force HQ with a suitcase of cash. What are we going to do with it? Where does it go?
Well, whilst I have had my eye on those voice activated Apple iHandcuffs with the built-in wifi, the true benefit of the cash is really in enabling us to reinvest in some very important community projects.
Local examples of where POCA cash has ended up include a £750 to the Sea Cadets and funding Walsall’s futuristic Cyberbus which floats around the LPU addressing ASB issues.
Many of the successful seizures to have come from the Payback Team’s work will have started off with a phone call from a member of the public to their local officers suggesting that someone on their street seems to be managing the income from their paper round remarkably well as they’ve just picked up a new BMW.
As such if you suspect that someone’s income isn’t entirely legitimate, please give us a call on 101 or approach Crimestoppers anonymously.
Criminals only stand to lose and the community stands to gain – this is the way things should be!

Maybe I don’t really want to know how your garden grows…

Cannabis factories, a ‘growing’ problem but how can you tell if there’s one near you?

In the past four weeks I have attended two cannabis factories, been to one house where harvested cannabis was being dried and I’ve witnessed the pile of seized hydroponic equipment outside the property store being added to on a daily basis.

It’s estimated that us police types are raiding three cannabis factories every day across Britain, they’re a regular discovery around the West Midlands and whilst we’re doing our best to disrupt the trade, the factories that our Cannabis Disposal Teams rip apart only represent the tip of the iceberg.

It’s common to find cannabis farms set up in residential houses and factory units – one of the largest growing operations of the past few years was uncovered inside an industrial building just behind Bloxwich Police Station – and criminals are more than happy to tap straight into the mains to power the heat lamps required to make their crop grow.

As it is the case that the cannabis farmers often use residential locations to grow their crops, having members of the public keeping an eye open for suspicious activity and passing information onto ourselves is crucial.

What should you be looking for though? How can you spot a cannabis farm?

Assuming you’ve got your deerstalker on and magnifying glass in hand, here are some of the clues that hint a cannabis factory may be nearby:

  • Strange smell – One of the most obvious signs, cannabis is referred to as ‘skunk’ for a reason. Its sweet smell is very hard to disguise and drifts through thin walls and open windows.
  • Covered windows – In many of the factories that I’ve visited, the windows have been papered over or the curtains kept closed. It helps keep in the heat and light and is a strong sign that there’s something inside somebody’s trying to hide.
  • Pots and soil etc being brought in – Much of the equipment needed to grow cannabis is bulky. Lamps, ventilation tubing, pots and soil being brought in at funny hours suggest your neighbour isn’t growing marrows.
  • Odd comings and going – One job I went to started off with a report that a minibus full of people had been seen arriving at an empty house at five in the morning, we arrived and found they were illegal immigrants about to set up a cannabis farm.
  • Neighbours that don’t quite fit in – DrugScope suggest that three quarters of cannabis farms are run by Vietnamese gangs although it’s certainly not exclusive to one ethnicity, anyone can be tempted to try and grow cannabis.
  • Shy occupants – If neighbours have set up a growing operation, they’ll be keen to attract as little attention as possible. Suspicions should be raised if you think a house is occupied but you never see the people living there.
  • Lots of banging and noise – As you can see from the photo, cannabis farms require some extensive ‘renovations’ which won’t be quiet work. You may also be able to hear air circulation fans running constantly.
  • Heat coming through walls – Cannabis plants don’t get on particularly well with the British weather so heat lamps are required, you may well be able to feel the surplus heat escaping through adjoining walls. It’s also quite noticeable to the thermal imaging camera on our helicopter.
  • Electrical problems or a rise in your bill – Heat lamps are electricity thirsty and rather than pay for the electricity, cannabis farmers usually (and very dangerously) hook directly up to the mains. In one factory they’d dug under the road and linked straight to the street’s main supply, the electricity company had to dig the street up to fix the damage.
  • Odd things left in the rubbish – Look out for bags of cuttings, empty cannisters of plant growth formula and the like.
  • Strange pattern of occupancy – Cannabis farmers usually rent their properties, if you notice a house that’s been unoccupied for a while being taken over by someone who doesn’t move in any furniture or appear to be running a business, it may be that they’re stripping the property out for a farm.
  • Rise in humidity – Just as cannabis plants like heat, they also need a high level of humidity to grow. This may well be noticeable, as might the sound of the humidifiers.
  • Vents visible – Look out for silver coloured piping hanging out of windows, hose pipes leading indoors too are a give away.
  • Lights left on – If the windows haven’t been completely covered, you may be able to see bright yellow light escaping.

If you’ve noticed any of the above, it’s a good possibility that someone might be operating a cannabis factory nearby.

Please give us a call on 101 and let us know as we’re always happy to come around with the ‘big red key’ and have our burly Cannabis Disposal Team tear apart the hydroponic equipment with their teeth.

Alternatively you can supply the information anonymously via Crimestoppers by calling 0800 555 111 or visiting their website.

The most recent cannabis find I’d attended came to our attention as a result of an anonymous call from a resident – it’s hard to say just how valuable these sort of calls are to us so if any of the above indicators have stood out to you, please don’t delay in letting us know.

Help us nip the problem in the bud!

I kept on running into the south lands, that’s where they found me, my head in my hands…

Where are you, John? We'd like a little chat...

Having just had a quick peek at the FBI’s ‘Ten Most Wanted‘ list, I notice that they’ve got the catchy headline ‘be part of the solution’.

As we’ve just published our own version of the Most Wanted list, I’m writing to encourage you to be part of the solution yourself and help us catch some of the West Midlands’ most sought after criminals.

Drawing on the success of Operation View during which we encouraged – and are still encouraging – you to take a look at CCTV captured during the August Riots, we now have a dedicated section of our website on which we’re publishing some rather unpleasant mugshots of persons who we’re hoping you’ll help us locate.

Doing so is easy enough – you just need to take a note of the offender’s reference number and then either give us a call on 101 or alternatively, approach Crimestoppers anonymously with your tip off.

The people we’ve added to the gallery are wanted for some of the worst offences it’s possible to commit – there are suspected murderers, robbers, burglars and more. They’ve all either been convicted or are named as responsible for a range of serious offences and what’s more, whilst their not residing in one of our cells are more likely than not out causing harm in your area.

Because this is the case we need your help to locate and arrest these villains as soon as possible. You might recognise them from the pub, or through a friend of a friend or maybe you’ve seen them hanging around on your estate – whatever your connection and however strong, it’s important that you get in touch to help us prevent further offences.

As you’ll notice from the gallery, there are already suspects who have big red ‘arrested’ stamps across their silhouettes – this will be because members of the public have got in touch and we’d love to see a few more stamps appearing on the other people in the gallery – it’ll be owing to your help that this will happen.

Limehouse police knocking at my door, twelve black boots on my bedroom floor… (Part two of two)

Putting all his body weight behind what is already a fairly hefty chunk of steel, the officer swings the ram into the door. The lock claws at the door frame as it gives way in a shower of splinters. The ram is then cast aside and officers begin to flood the premises.

The first thing that officers will be looking to do once inside is to locate all of the persons within and ensure that they have no opportunity to destroy evidence. Each room will be searched for occupants, including cupboards and under beds, and all those found will be gathered and secured in one area.

Probably still a little shell shocked from their unexpected wake up call the officer in charge of the warrant will explain to the occupants why the warrant is being executed and give them a chance to examine a copy of the warrant itself. A search book will then be started listing where the warrant is taking place, who is present and what, if anything, has been recovered.

With the occupants of the premises sat in one place the search can begin to earnest. Each room will be thoroughly and methodically sifted through with anything that may be linked to an offence likely to be seized as evidence. The warrant specifies what we are able to search for and are searching techniques need to be proportionate to what we’re looking for. A warrant authorising us to search for a stolen 52″ flat screen television, as an example, would mean that we couldn’t search kitchen draws as it’s rather unlikely that we’d find the television inside.

When we find something of interest that we’re going to seize we make a note of where it was found, along with the time, and enter this information into the search book.

Having finished our search we’ll then transport any arrested suspects back to the police station taking with us our seized property. The prisoners will be booked on in the cells whilst other officers will begin the process of booking their recovered evidence into the property store and writing their production statements. This task finished we can then evaluate any useful intelligence that we’ve gained from the raid and begin dealing with the prisoners themselves.

Drugs warrants are a great way for us to tackle the wider issues caused by drug abuse and provide a visible sign to the public that we are taking action to clamp down on the dealers. In addition they have a habit of making other criminals in the area quite edgy about continuing their dodgy operations. Will I be next they begin to wonder? Should they persist to flout the law, the answer is a very loud yes.

Limehouse police knocking at my door, twelve black boots on my bedroom floor… (Part one of two)

The enforcer rips the door from its hinges at the first attempt. “Police! Police! Stay where you are!” yell the officers who pile into the address immediately afterwards, flooding each room and securing exit points. A handful of rather shocked occupants are led through into the living room, their hands secured to the front with cuffs. They are sat down and after a brief pregnant pause an officer comes in holding a large quantity of cash, scales and a sizable bag of white powder to boot. Another successful drugs raid then.

What goes into a police drugs raid then? In this, the first of a two part special on the subject, I look at what’s involved in getting us to the front door of a suspected drug dealer.

Knock, knock...

A drugs warrant, as with any other form of warrant, starts off with good intelligence. Neighbourhood officers have a good idea of who’s likely to be causing problems on their beat and are supported by members of the public who’d rather not have a drug dealer lurking around at the corner of their street. Information flows in from a variety of sources including Crimestoppers and gives us a fantastic idea of who might require a visit from the battering ram.

Having collected, collated and analysed information on a suspect, we then sit down and start work on a plan for the operation. This takes into account what resources there are available, what issues we might be likely to encounter at an address and if there are any risks to our safety that we might need to prepare for. Are there, for example, dogs at the premises that we might need help with? Are there children present? What do our suspect’s criminal records tell us about how they might react?

Once it has been put together, we’ll then get our plan risk assessed by a trained member of staff who will decide whether we are going to be able to execute the warrant without putting anybody’s welfare at undue risk. Warrants can be dangerous operations by their very nature but by evaluating them beforehand we try and do the best we can to ensure that every officer entering an address has roughly the same proportion of limbs when they emerge again.

With the risk assessor’s stamp of approval, we’re then in a position to approach a magistrate to ask him or her to endorse our warrant thereby giving us the legal power to enter an address. To do this we have to visit the court, swear an oath, and are then asked questions about how we plan to carry out the operation. If the magistrate is happy with the grounds for executing the warrant he or she will sign it. We then have a period of one month to go and put the door in.

It’s at this point that we have to decide when it is best to go and execute our warrant. This will depend on our resources, when it is most likely that our targets will be in and when we are likely to have the best chance of catching them with controlled substances.

Once a date and time has been picked, we’ll then gather together our kit and sit for a briefing during which the plan for the warrant is laid out in detail. Every officer’s role in the operation will be clearly explained so that as they head out to the address everyone is clear who is searching where, who they’re expecting to find at the address and what they’re looking for.

Forcing entry to a premises is often preferred to simply knocking as it presents less opportunity for those inside to quickly destroy evidence. The shock of hearing the front door tumbling into the hallway in splinters is usually enough to stun even the quickest thinking criminal.

Briefing complete a small convoy of police vehicles emerges from the station car park and snakes its way to the target address. With people positioned to the rear, method of entry trained officers run up to the front door and draw back the ram ready to strike.

I’m thinkin’ about my doorbell, when ya gonna ring it, when ya gonna ring it?

The above is a short video with some words from our head honcho, Chris Sims, about the ongoing efforts that we’re making to sweep up outstanding offenders from the August riots.

We’ve already made a large number of arrests and put many guilty persons before the courts and then behind bars. Images of those persons involved but not yet located are sitting on the Operation View website and you’re able to take a gander at them and then give us a call if you recognise anyone.

As the Chief said, much of the success we’ve experienced so far has come about through help from the public and your input is vital to catching the few not yet collared by our long, long arms.

Anyone with any information about those involved in the disorder should call West Midlands Police on 0345 113 5000 or the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.


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