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More than 20 people are being investigated following an operation to tackle waste crime in Cheshire.
Cheshire Constabulary’s Rural Crime Team led the five-day operation in collaboration with the Environment Agency and three local authorities (Warrington Borough Council, Cheshire West and Chester Council and Cheshire East Council).
Vehicles and companies believed to be involved in the illegal disposal or management of waste were targeted between Monday 15 February and Friday 19 February.
Officers pulled over target vehicles that had been spotted via ANPR cameras.
They also performed stop checks near to particularly busy arterial routes into Cheshire.
Everything from small commercial carriers to large HGVs were stopped to check if they were transporting waste, and if they had the necessary licences and paperwork to do so.
In total, well over 100 vehicles were pulled over during the multi-agency operation.
Many of the vehicles were searched and over 10 of them were subsequently seized.
In addition, more than 50 tickets were issued, for a range of offences.
Sergeant Rob Simpson, of the Rural Crime Team, said: “Waste crime is a big problem across the country.
“It causes significant environmental and public health problems, blights local communities and drains the UK economy of hundreds of millions of pounds a year in clean-up costs and lost tax revenues, and those involved in waste crime are often involved in other serious criminal activity, including large scale fraud and in some cases modern slavery.
“We take waste crime extremely seriously at Cheshire Constabulary.
“We have been liaising with the Environment Agency to identify and tackle organised crime groups and anyone else who breaks the law by conducting unlicensed collection, transportation and disposal of waste, including toxic waste.
“Acting on the intelligence gathered, target vehicles and companies were located and stopped during the five-day operation, called Operation Permits.
“Any other vehicle with the capacity to transport waste illegally was also stopped and checked.
“The Rural Crime Team was assisted by local officers, the Motorcycle Unit, the Roads and Crime Unit, the Commercial Vehicle Unit, the police drone and members of our Special Constabulary.
“Environment Agency and local authority waste enforcement officers also took part in the operation, which saw us stop, search and seize a substantial number of vehicles and begin appropriate investigations for each case.
“More than 20 people are being investigated in the aftermath of Op Permits.
“The operation was a success and we will continue to target those who use our roads to commit waste crime.”
There were five bases for the stop and check operation. They were in Warrington, Chester, Crewe, Macclesfield and Northwich.
Both large and small (fly-tipping) illegal waste disposal was targeted during the operation.
David Keane, the police and crime commissioner for Cheshire, said: “Waste crime is a blight on our communities.
“It poses a real threat to the environment, causing nuisance, environmental contamination and public health problems, is expensive to clean up and can also harm the economy by taking business away from legitimate, responsible firms and damaging the reputation of the waste and resource management industry.
“As the county’s police and crime commissioner, I am fully aware of the hard work being done at Cheshire Constabulary to tackle those who illegally exploit the waste industry and the environment and I applaud all those involved in this successful five-day operation.”
Nigel Glasgow, Cheshire’s Environment Agency area manager, said: “The Environment Agency works in partnership with the police to tackle illegal waste movements.
“We would like to remind all householders they have a duty of care to check that anyone taking away their waste is registered as a waste carrier with the Environment Agency. This includes hired builders and contractors who offer to take the waste away as part of their service.
“There are some tell-tale signs to be mindful of when dealing with a waste operator. Is the waste business only advertising on social media? Are the rates significantly cheaper? Are they insisting on being paid in cash only? These are some of the signs for a business operating illegally.
“As a householder or business owner, you have a responsibility to check the legitimacy of anyone collecting waste from you.
“Anyone with concerns about illegal or suspicious activity in your area should contact the police on 101. Environmental incidents can be reported to the Environment Agency 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 0800 807060.”
Cllr Judith Guthrie, cabinet member for environment and public protection at Warrington Borough Council, added: “Cross agency support is welcomed to focus on tackling waste crime.
“Whilst individually we all deal with this issue, we are able to achieve more collectively.”
Cllr Karen Shore, Cheshire West and Chester Council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for environment, highways and strategic transport, said: “Cheshire West and Chester Council is committed to tackling waste crime.
“This operation is an excellent example of how we can work with partners across Cheshire to closely monitor and regulate activities involving waste disposal.
“By working with our partners, and our communities, we can make a positive difference and protect our countryside from fly-tippers.”
Cllr Mick Warren, cabinet member for communities at Cheshire East Council, said: “Waste crime is deeply anti-social and damages the local environment for everyone.
“The council has issued repeated messages about the actions it is taking to clamp down on such illegal activity across the borough.
“We are working with our partners to try to achieve a healthy and clean environment for the people of Cheshire East through enforcement and via education and awareness campaigns.
“Illegal waste disposal is a serious offence, which can lead to a maximum £50,000 fine and/or prison, and the council will act where there is evidence to bring about a prosecution.
“Unfortunately, the nature of waste crime – sometimes carried out under darkness or in isolated spots – means that it can be more difficult for enforcement officers to catch those responsible.
“That is why the council continues to work closely with partner agencies and members of the public to provide any eye-witness account of fly-tipping, or other illegal waste disposal, which could lead to prosecution. This sort of environmental crime simply will not be tolerated.
“People can report fly-tipping or other waste crime via our website.”