The West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner has funded an innovative new team of financial experts to take on the region’s drugs gangs and organised criminals. The new team will take them on: confiscating their laundered assets and drugs cash. All of the money seized will be put back into drug policy initiatives to make our streets safer and further disrupt organised crime.

The PCC is funding the team for an initial two years, using around £160,000 of money seized using the Proceeds of Crime Act per year to pay for the team. This new approach is part of David Jamieson’s eight recommendations to reduce the harm, profit and crime from drugs in the West Midlands.

Across the country budgets for substance misuse services are no longer ring-fenced and have been cut by at least quarter in the last five years. As well as funding the team’s running costs, additional money seized by the investigators will go towards funding drug support services in the West Midlands, helping to plug the gap after years of cuts.

The approach has been dubbed as Operation Pound by cops, as they seek to hit criminals where it hurts most and take away their cash.

West Midlands Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner, Ashley Bertie said:

“It would seem to be apt that those who have profited from selling drugs will now be funding treatment for the people they have harmed.

“Drugs have a terrible impact on the lives of so many people. This scheme aims to take away the profits from the kingpins at the top and use their money to increase drug support services.

“This is a full-circle approach, we are taking away the profits from criminality, using expert financial investigators to forensically attack the pockets of organised criminals. We will then be shrinking the drugs market further by increasing the availability of drug support services.

“This scheme will hit criminals where it hurts most, in the pocket.”

The team is currently comprised of three financial investigators, who have been hired from the banking sector and an intelligence analyst. If the new team is successful over the two year pilot in increasing the amount of cash seized, it is expected to expand further.

Jenny Birch, Head of the Economic Crime Unit said: “The offenders we will be focussing on are driven solely by financial gains. They have no regard for the social or health impact they have on individuals or wider communities that they flood with their drugs. Seizing this money will allow us to undo some of the harm they have caused and end their profiteering.”

The amount of cash and assets seized by West Midlands Police has fallen, due to losing over 2,000 officers since 2010. This new approach will not only pay for itself, but it will be used to fund support services to help people off drugs. A conservative estimate suggests that hundreds of thousands of pounds could be seized. Cash forfeitures and confiscation orders relating to drugs criminality has dropped by 95% since 2012/13.

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