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Hundreds of officers from three forces have arrested 12 people, seized around a dozen suspected stolen vehicles and £90,000 in cash, and uncovered a cannabis factory during more than 20 warrants across Essex and London today.
The raids – which took place shortly before 6am in a joint operation by Essex Police, the Metropolitan Police Service, and British Transport Police – are part of an investigation into the theft of vehicles, particularly high value cars such as Range Rovers.
The investigation involves nearly 90 incidents where vehicles, mainly Range Rovers and Land Rovers, have been stolen between November 2018 and February 2020.
The vehicles have been taken from locations across Essex – including Shenfield, Witham, Loughton, Brentwood, Ingatestone, Epping, Audley End, Billericay, West Horndon, and Hockley – and London – predominantly in the Havering and Barking & Dagenham areas – as well as in Kent.
The value of the vehicles involved totals almost £5 million.
Acting Superintendent Lewis Basford, who is leading the operation, said: “Vehicle theft causes serious harm to the victims both in terms of the financial loss of the vehicle itself and the impact is has on their life.
“It can affect your home life, your ability to take your kids to school and go to and from work.
“If you use your vehicle for work, it could mean you’re not able to work at all.
“Today’s operation highlights the excellent partnership and collaborative work that takes place between forces to tackle this issue.
“Essex Police, the Metropolitan Police, and British Transport Police have shared intelligence and pooled resources with more than 450 officers involved in today’s warrants, emphasising how seriously we treat this issue.
“Organised crime groups cause misery to our communities and work across borders making effective partnership work like this crucial to disrupting and dismantling them.
“We will continue to work together to tackle these kinds of groups.
“Essex and London are safer places for vehicle owners today as a result of this work”.
Warrants were carried out in Navestock, Hockley, Grays, Basildon, Benfleet, Waltham Abbey in Essex and Rainham, Dagenham, Romford, Leyton, and West Ham.
They come following months of collaborative work from several different organisations including the Government Agency Intelligence Network (GAIN).
GAIN is made up of Government departments and law enforcement agencies which share intelligence and information to disrupt organised crime groups.
A/Superintendent Basford said: “By working in partnership, sharing intelligence lawfully and efficiently, the GAIN aims to ensure that Government agencies along with police will help reduce the risk, threat and harm from serious organised crime, in the most cost-effective way.
“Today’s action follows months of collaborative hard work by GAIN which are dedicated to dismantling crime networks which benefit from inflicting misery on communities.”
During the warrants, officers recovered suspected stolen vehicles including as well as equipment used steal vehicles.
A/Supt Basford added: “The people behind these types of offences are organised and professional.
“They’re experienced at giving a vehicle a new identity and then selling it on to an unsuspecting member of the public.
“Often it may not be identified for several months that a vehicle’s identity has been cloned, by which point the criminals have their money and are long gone.
“Gangs make millions of pounds in profits through this crime and can, re-invest that money into other forms of crime which cause further harm to the community.”