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The first ever policing operation covering the entire length of the M5 has resulted in 291 people being dealt with for traffic and other offences.

Operation Unity involved officers from seven police forces working together to proactively police the M5 corridor, from its origins in West Bromwich, near Birmingham, to the start of the Devon Expressway in Exeter.

The aim of the operation was to crackdown on travelling criminals and target traffic offences over a two-day period, between Thursday, 2 October, and Friday, 3 October.

Of the 291 drivers dealt with, 70 were stopped for speeding offences, 54 were issued with fixed penalty notices for using their phone at the wheel and 35 were pulled over for not wearing their seatbelts.

As part of the operation, 11 people were arrested on suspicion of a variety of offences. Notable arrests include the arrest of two men, with the help of Central Motorway Police Group (CMPG) officers, over vehicle thefts.

The pair were arrested on the M50 in Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire, on 2 October after their vehicles were identified by officers working on Op Unity. Stephen Probert, aged 38, of no fixed abode and Keri Davies, aged 28, of Commercial Street, Bargoed, were both charged with theft, fraud and taking a vehicle without consent offences.  They appeared before Worcester Magistrates’ Court yesterday (6 October) where they were remanded into custody.

Elsewhere, officers from Devon & Cornwall and Avon & Somerset responded to a report about a man in a Mercedes van with a handgun seen near Cullompton, Devon. Local, unmarked, armed officers quickly picked up the vehicle and monitored its journey into Somerset. The van was stopped near Bristol and searched – no arrests were made but a BB pistol was recovered.

While forces already share intelligence and respond to incidents across borders, it is the first time officers from CMPG (West Mercia, West Midlands and Staffordshire forces), the newly-formed Tri-force Operations (Avon & Somerset, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire forces) and Devon & Cornwall Police have taken a consistent approach and worked together as one to police the M5.

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, David Jamieson, said: “To keep our motorways safe for everyone and tackle organised crime requires police forces to work together, just as the three-force Central Motorway Police Group has done for many years in our area.  

“We know that the motorway network is vital to organised crime, and I am pleased to see forces working together across boundaries to deny its use to criminals.  I welcome this operation and hope to see more of its kind in future.”

Superintendent Paul Keasey, head of CMPG who led the operation, said: “We are delighted with the results of this operation, which saw 79 drivers dealt with on the M5 in the West Mercia and West Midlands force areas. 

“Recent intelligence indicates the M5 is a vital route for many different members of the criminal community, allowing them to traffic people, convey drugs, transport stolen goods and deliver vehicles following car key burglaries.

“We hope this operation sends a clear message to them that we will act on the information we receive from the public and we will take whatever action necessary to disrupt their activities.

“We also hope it raises the awareness of the ‘fatal five’ offences, namely dangerous and careless driving, mobile phones, speeding, seatbelts, drink and drug driving, and makes drivers think more carefully about their actions, helping to reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured on our roads.”

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