A record numbers of weapons have been taken off the streets in Bedfordshire this year, as police continue to crackdown on serious violence and exploitation.
Offenders linked to organised crime groups (OCGs) in Bedfordshire were sentenced to more than 200 years in prison in the first nine months of 2019.
Over the same timeframe Bedfordshire Police arrested 101 people, charging 34 suspects and seized more than five kilos of Class A, two kilos of Class B drugs and six firearms.
This enforcement action has coincided with a surge in the number of weapons being taken off Bedfordshire's streets.
In October 1,632 knives were recovered from Bedfordshire Police’s weapons bins; 859 in the north and 773 in the south.
As well as these knives, other additional weapons handed in included 11 firearms, nine meat cleavers and a nunchuka.
The previous two times the bins were emptied, in September 2018 and March 2019, 1,206 knives and 992 knives respectively were recovered.
The force’s property team has destroyed slightly fewer than 400 firearms over the past two months, which were seized in investigations or handed in over the past 18 months.
These weapons included handguns, sawn-off shotguns, crossbows, tasers, BB guns and double barrelled shotguns.
Overall, close to 5,000 bladed articles were destroyed over the same timeframe, ranging from kitchen knives, lock knives, machetes and swords through to bike spikes.
A lot of these weapons were found as part of Operation Sceptre work combatting knife crime in the county.
Major operations tackling organised crime, gang violence and exploitation have also had a big impact over the past few months.
Work to combat gangs and serious youth violence in the south of the county has seen more than a dozen warrants carried out since the operation launched in November, including the arrest of a man for one wrap of cannabis resulting in a premises search which recovered around £51,000 in cash.
A man in his 20s was subsequently charged with possession with intent to supply Class B drugs and possession of criminal property, and remanded into custody.
More than 10 people have been charged since October with drugs supply offences as part of a Serious and Organised Crime Unit investigation into drug dealing in Bedford.
Eleven women were safeguarded and eight arrests made after a major operation to combat human trafficking and sexual exploitation. Seventeen addresses in Luton either suspected of housing brothels or being linked to a wider organised crime network behind them were subject to warrants or visits by police.
Bedfordshire Police Assistant Chief Constable Jackie Sebire, the National Police Chiefs Council's lead for serious youth violence, said: “Tackling organised crime, serious violence and exploitation is absolutely integral to our efforts around keeping Bedfordshire safe.
“We will continue to take enforcement action against those involved in this offending, while our communities are undoubtedly safer now thousands of weapons have been taken off the streets.
“While the police will continue to be at the sharp end of this problem, it is vital that we continue to work with our partners and communities to tackle the root causes of these hugely challenging issues and provide a long term solution.
“That’s why we are so supportive of our Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit, which will invest in and support grassroots initiatives and projects across the county in order to divert people away from a life of crime and towards a better future.”