Exclusive: Police in secret jail mission to spy on gangsters
POLICE battling to contain the activities of Yorkshire’s organised criminals are now working undercover inside the region’s jails in a bid to stop leading gangsters running operations from their cells.
Specialist officers have drawn up a new protocol which has just been signed off by the Home Office, giving them powers to access information on inmates and the associations they form on the inside.
The initiative also involves the prison service, private firms which run some of the region’s jails and probation staff who prepare inmates for release as they near the end of their sentence.
Although senior officers said they had shared some information with prison authorities for several years, a recent escalation in gang crime meant a “tailored solution” was now required.
South Yorkshire Police is leading the project after a series of shootings in Sheffield, including the death of 17-year-old Tarek Chaiboub, whose 2008 execution was ordered by gang chief Nigel Ramsey, 23, from his jail cell at HMP Wolds in East Yorkshire.
Police chiefs were unwilling to go into detail about operations, but it is understood officers based at a “prison intelligence unit” in Doncaster are being sent into jails to carry out covert operations.
Some of the unit’s staff are serving police, while others are retired officers who have worked on major investigations in the past.
Inspector Glen Suttenwood, who leads the South Yorkshire gang enforcement team said the “prison information sharing protocol” was the first of its kind to be used anywhere in the country.
He said it was not just about stopping organised crime leaders operating from inside but also about predicting what crimes known gang members may engage in once their sentence ends.
He added: “We do share information with the prison services and probation officers but this will allow us to get a picture of prison allegiances and to monitor prisoners.”
Recent research revealed Yorkshire had 244 organised crime groups with more than 1,600 members, most operating across force boundaries, co-ordinating crime in other parts of the region and country. It also showed many organised crime groups, or OCGs, recruited from street gangs which have members as young as 10.
While criminal justice charities last night welcomed action against gang members, they also noted that the fact criminals had to be policed while inside showed prison wasn’t working.
Andrew Neilson, director of campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform said: “Organised crime brings misery to communities and we welcome any attempt to reduce it. But it is a damning indictment of the prison system that police must take this action.”
Yesterday the Home Office announced an additional £500,000 will be used to support young people at risk of becoming violent offenders and those already involved in gang and knife crime.
Home Secretary Theresa May said: “Serious youth violence has a devastating impact on communities and needs to be stopped.
“We need to change the life stories of the young people who too often end up dead or seriously injured on our streets or are sucked into a life of violence and crime.”
South Yorkshire Police has clamped down on gangs in recent weeks, issuing a series of injunctions restricting activities of criminals thought to be behind shootings on Sheffield’s Parson Cross estate.
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Saturday 25 May 2013
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