May the force be with you - or in this instance specialists from three police forces whose tally for past year is criminals locked up for more than 300 years

One of the ram raids - this in Kimbolton- where the offenders were brought to book by the ERSOU team

One of the ram raids - this in Kimbolton- where the offenders were brought to book by the ERSOU team - Credit: Archant

Organised criminals across the region were locked up for a total of more than 300 years in the past 12 months by the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit (ERSOU).

The dedicated unit, led by Bedfordshire Police Chief Constable Colette Paul, comprises staff from Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk police forces and focuses on tackling organised crime groups across the region.

The type of crime investigated by the unit includes child sexual exploitation, human trafficking, drug-trafficking, financial crime, cyber crime, violence and firearms offences.

In the 12 months until April, the unit made 163 arrests resulting in 95 charges and has disrupteda number of organised crime groups. Sentences totalling 319 years were secured at court – bringing the total number of years to 841 since the unit’s inception.

The unit’s Cyber Unit has made 19 arrests since September and disrupted several crime groups.

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Detective Chief Superintendent Mark Birch, who heads the unit, said: “These statistics show just how effective ERSOU is and the value the unit adds to forces in the region.

“We have specialist teams focusing on identifying and dismantling organised crime groups which are either present in the region or come here with the sole intention of committing crime. Many will be trafficking drugs, but they are multi-offending groups often exploiting the vulnerable and the young as a side product to their drug trafficking.

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“We are continuing to develop the unit’s capabilities to protect our communities and work with forces across the region to make it a hostile place for criminals to operate.

“Our current high priorities are child sexual exploitation and human trafficking and I would urge anyone with information concerning those who prey on our vulnerable, to let us know. This can be done by contacting your local force but also anonymously through Crimestoppers.”

Anyone with any information about crime should call police on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111.

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