Bedfordshire Police has been handed its biggest ever grant funding pot to take the fight to criminal gangs and organised crime groups in the county.
Ministers have awarded the force more than £7 million in special grant funding to respond to the extraordinary challenges posed locally by organised crime.
The latest money comes in two batches of around £3.6 million.
One grant will pay for the force to run Operation Costello, its biggest ever operation to tackle organised crime, over two years.
The second grant will cover the cost of Bedfordshire Police’s Boson guns and gangs team.
Bedfordshire Police Chief Constable Garry Forsyth said:
“There is a whole range of research and statistics that demonstrate the stark challenge we face here in Bedfordshire from gang violence, exploitation and organised crime.
“Yet for so long we have been fighting these challenges with one hand tied behind our back, with the funding formula failing to recognise the seriousness, volume and complexity of threat in our force area.
“We have argued this case repeatedly to ministers for a number of years and it is really pleasing to see this level of funding come into policing in Bedfordshire, after similar successes in the recent past.
“However, we will continue to argue for a longer term and more sustainable funding solution for us here in Bedfordshire, so we can continue this work over a number of years and really eradicate the systemic criminal networks operating in our county.”
Operation Costello will see the force recruit an entire new team to carry out investigations into criminal gangs identified under the national Operation Venetic. This is the operation where international law enforcement cracked an encrypted communications network used by organised crime.
Some 10 per cent of the firearms seized across the country in the first phase of Operation Venetic were seized in Luton.
Under Operation Costello, 50 people have already been arrested and almost 100 warrants carried out, with nearly 100 kilos of Class A drugs and more than £1 million in assets seized in Luton by Bedfordshire Police and the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit.
Meanwhile, Boson played a role in Bedfordshire Police seizing record amounts of illegal drugs over the past 12 months.
The unit runs proactive patrols in areas targeted by gangs and drug dealers, while the team’s investigation into a shooting in Luton recently featured on 24 Hours in Police Custody.
Boson also plays a leading role in prevention, working with different agencies to safeguard young people at risk.
Policing Minister Kit Malthouse said:
“We are committed to tackling organised crime across our country – protecting the public is one of our top priorities.
“I’m delighted that we have been able to provide Bedfordshire Police Force with more than £7 million in special grant funding to support the force in their tireless work to cut organised crime in their area.
“We’ll continue to support our police forces to protect our streets and make communities across the country safer.”