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Challenger: A decade of tackling organised crime together

Programme Challenger was launched in 2014 as the multi-agency response to groups involved in serious crime across the city-region; including those who run drug lines, exploit people for financial gain, buy and use firearms, and launder the money they make from their criminality.

Challenger has grown substantially in the following 10 years and now has dedicated teams tackling county lines, modern slavery, and economic crime, with the aim of pursuing criminals, protecting victims, preventing harm, and preparing communities.

While the presence of organised crime remains in Greater Manchester, the Challenger partnership does not relent, and its message is as clear as ever: we’ll pursue those that exploit vulnerable people, and we’ll protect those vulnerable people being exploited.

The dynamic collaborative approach of Challenger means it is more than police ‘arresting their way’ out of organised crime, with proactive action from GMP not being limited to warrants, arrests, and the recovery of drugs, weapons, and cash. We work with around 40 partner agencies such as schools, youth centres, housing providers, charities, and other local and national services to effectively prevent crime and protect communities.

We have also remained committed to building relationships with communities and continue to use information shared by the public to help identify criminal activity and the exploitation of vulnerable people. Whether it be direct to police, anonymously through Crimestoppers, or another agency that you trust, we will always urge communities to share concerns or information to us so we can act together.

Our most recent Challenger annual report demonstrates how we are disrupting serious and organised crime severely, with a 40% increase in arrests and charges leading to a 64% increase in convictions in 2022 compared to the year before, and an 183% increase in firearms seizures compared to 2021.

Alongside this, a hard-hitting performance ‘Crossing the Line’ has been delivered in schools, and funding from monies confiscated from criminality has been used to fund a mentoring and investment programme for young people aged 12 to 18.

Further information about Programme Challenger can now be found on the GMP website and we encourage you to read and engage with our contents across our online channels to help share the message of what we do and how you can help.

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Detective Chief Inspector Claire McGuire, of Programme Challenger, said: “This year marks a decade since Greater Manchester joined together to tackle serious and organised crime, and it has seen police, local authorities and many, many partners unite in our aim of pursuing criminals and protecting victims.

“As the police, we know we cannot arrest our way through fighting serious crime and the exploitation of vulnerable people. There is so much more to this which is why we have such a dynamic and wide-ranging partnership that not only stops crime while it’s happening, but importantly aims to deter further crime long before it potentially could take place.

“Organised crime remains a scourge on society that preys on the most vulnerable. We won’t stop working together to strengthen our relationships with partners and the public to ensure we are increasingly aware of who we need to be pursuing and who we need to be protecting – it is this holistic approach that has been Challenger’s success so far and will continue to be in the future.”

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Kate Green, Deputy Mayor for policing, crime, criminal justice and fire said: “Programme Challenger is partnership working at its best in Greater Manchester. The success of operations such as Operation Vulcan, which has been successful in driving organised crime out of Cheetham Hill and Strangeways, is a brilliant example of this partnership in action. But it’s not just about disruption and enforcement, we are also going into schools to educate young people on the signs of exploitation and raise awareness of support.

“Together, through education, prevention, and our dedicated teams with their tenacious disruption approach, we can bring down organised crime gangs and make Greater Manchester a safer place.”

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