In an effort to tackle the persistent menace of serious and organised crime in a Leeds community, a comprehensive campaign named ‘CommUnity Harehills’ has been officially initiated. This ambitious project aims to bring about lasting improvements by relentlessly targeting criminal activities, aligning the efforts of law enforcement agencies and partner organisations. The undertaking is part of the Home Office’s ‘Clear, Hold, Build’ strategy, which seeks to rescue areas most afflicted by organised crime.

The focal point of this groundbreaking initiative is an area in Leeds that straddles the Gipton & Harehills Ward and the Burmantofts & Richmond Hill Ward. A thorough analysis of serious and organised crime activity revealed that this area has been severely impacted, particularly by organised cannabis production and supply, violent crime, and weapon possession. Disturbingly, clear evidence suggests the presence of multiple criminal groups operating in the region.

Previous short-term enforcement measures aimed at eradicating these criminal elements have proven ineffective, as they were quickly replaced by new groups eager to exploit the void left behind. The ‘CommUnity Harehills’ project introduces a long-term strategy that actively engages and empowers the local community, ensuring that the issues affecting their daily lives determine the priorities for collaborative action.

The approach combines targeted enforcement operations with community work, enabling the police and partner agencies to clear an area of organised criminal activity, maintain control to prevent the resurgence of criminal groups, and foster resilience to make the region less susceptible to criminal influence.

Crucial to the success of the project is the involvement of local councillors and community representatives, who are actively encouraging residents to invest in the initiative. As part of the ‘build’ phase of the strategy, a Neighbourhood Improvement Partnership will be established to serve as a key mechanism for effecting change.

Simultaneously, residents and frontline practitioners embedded within the community are urged to provide ongoing intelligence to ensure that resources are effectively targeted, thereby purging the streets of organised criminality.

Under Operation Bakegreen, launched in March, officers from the Leeds East Neighbourhood Policing Team have undertaken a proactive campaign to disrupt and dismantle the organised drug supply in the area, laying a solid foundation for the ‘clear’ phase. The operation has been supported by specialist officers from Programme Precision, which focuses on serious and organised crime, and the Leeds District Neighbourhood Impact Team. Their combined efforts have resulted in the execution of 32 drug warrants and more than 40 arrests. Over 1,000 cannabis plants and drugs worth approximately £150,000 have been seized. Additionally, officers have recovered over £50,000 in cash and confiscated valuable items such as jewelry, designer clothing, and vehicles under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

In a recent joint operation with HM Revenue & Customs, West Yorkshire Trading Standards, and police and council Licensing officers, more than 100,000 illegal cigarettes, 26kg of tobacco, and various alcoholic beverages were seized.

To reassure residents, gather intelligence, and foster community engagement, officers have conducted proactive high-visibility deployments in the targeted areas.

Inspector Alastair Nicholls, head of the Leeds East Neighbourhood Policing Team, emphasised the importance of protecting communities from the significant harm caused by organised criminal groups involved in drug supply. He expressed confidence in the new approach, which offers a unique opportunity to concentrate the efforts of law enforcement and partner agencies in a sustained and consistent manner, ultimately eradicating these criminal groups and fostering lasting positive improvements. Inspector Nicholls stressed that community support is crucial for the initiative’s success and urged people to get involved, working together to create a safer Harehills for all residents.

The official launch of the ‘CommUnity Harehills’ initiative took place yesterday at The Compton Centre community hub in Harehills. Alison Lowe OBE, Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, visited the area to mark the occasion. She applauded the project for empowering residents and prioritising their needs, effectively removing criminals from the streets. Lowe expressed hope that this initiative would bring about lasting, sustainable change and make a tangible difference in the affected communities. Highlighting the priority of tackling serious violent crime, she reaffirmed the commitment of the police, the Violence Reduction Unit, and other partners to stand united against such threats.

Leeds City Council, through its community safety partnership Safer Leeds, plays a crucial role in this campaign as a key partner. Councillor Debra Coupar, Leeds City Council’s executive member responsible for Safer Leeds, emphasised their commitment to working in collaboration with West Yorkshire Police to effectively combat organised crime across the city. Coupar emphasised the need to utilise all available resources to ensure the safety of all Leeds communities and bring those responsible for criminal activities to justice.

The ‘CommUnity Harehills’ initiative sets a commendable example of proactive collaboration between law enforcement agencies, partner organisations, and the local community. By tackling serious and organised crime head-on, this comprehensive strategy aims to transform the affected area into a safer and thriving community, empowering residents and driving positive change for the long term.