Weekend read: EMSOU - The specialist unit helping rid our streets of drugs, firearms and dangerous criminals
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When crimes are committed, they’re usually investigated within force, but sometimes, when it’s really serious, violent or complicated, we draw on the skills and expertise from around the region – this is when the East Midlands Special Operations Unit (EMSOU) steps in.
EMSOU is one of the largest collaborative policing units in the country, and it’s not just Leicestershire they help to protect. Made up of around 1,200 police officers and staff, they offer investigative support and specialist capabilities to all five East Midlands police forces; Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Nottinghamshire.
EMSOU’s expertise spans multiple areas. The Regional Organised Crime Unit (ROCU) gathers intelligence and helps forces make informed decisions on the best ways to disrupt and investigate some of the most serious and organised criminals.
Housing an arsenal full of tactics, EMSOU investigates drugs and firearm trafficking, kidnaps, cyber-crime, fraud, money laundering and prison corruption and protects societies’ most vulnerable from modern slavery and human trafficking, and county lines.
March this year saw the culmination of a huge cross-county investigation by EMSOU, supported by Leicestershire Police, targeting drug lines feeding the county, as well as Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and Liverpool. In total 24 people were convicted for the key roles they played. Their combined jail sentences were over a century.
With technology constantly evolving, so are cyber-related crimes. Not too long ago a Leicestershire IT Manager, who posed as a cyber hacker in order to blackmail his boss was jailed for seven years.
The 22-year-old sent untraceable emails to the managing director of a high-tech business threatening to delete important company data and unleash a debilitating virus on their network unless a hefty ransom was paid. Despite his technical skill, it was the plot details written in his notebook that pointed to his involvement.
However, not all criminals are tech savvy. While on the run from police, a 31-year-old drug dealer continued to document his movements on social media. This helped EMSOU build a Class A drug conspiracy case against him, as well as monitor his movements. He was found in possession of heroin, cocaine and cash at the time of his arrest and was later sentenced to 12 years in prison.
But it’s not just drugs and firearms they’re after. EMSOU also has a dedicated team of Financial Investigators to make sure criminals don’t have a pot of cash waiting for them when they’re released from prison. Over the past year they’ve seized more than £1.6 million in cash. No matter how much time has passed from the original crime being committed, EMSOU won’t let crime pay.
This is something a former carer found out the hard way. In 2007, a 57-year-old Leicestershire care home worker was jailed for stealing from residents and staff. It was determined that she had profited £150,000 from her crimes, but at the time she only had £65,000 in available assets, which was awarded to the victims in compensation. Fast forward more than a decade and she was still on the Asset Confiscation Enforcement Team’s radar – and for good reason. A re-visit found that she had a savings account and two pensions with a total value of £13,000. She recently agreed to forfeit the funds.
When someone dies under suspicious circumstances in the East Midlands, their death is investigated by the EMSOU Major Crime Unit. The team also investigates complex cases and other serious crimes which take place across the region. Over the past year (from April 2019 to March 2020) the unit has investigated 44 homicides and sent 24 people to jail for almost 300 years collectively, with plenty more trial dates in the diary.
While we have a Major Crime team based within Leicestershire Police - as do each of the other four forces - thanks to the regional set-up, officers and staff could end up working on investigations across the whole region. The flexibility of the unit helps to ensure that no one area is overburdened by major investigations. It also means that other EMSOU teams can be called on for technological expertise or help in tracking down a criminal on the run. In a particularly harrowing case, it took less than 24 hours for the unit to arrest a man who raped and murdered an elderly woman in her Fleckney home. Analysis of DNA found at the scene gave them a name, and intelligence provided by the ROCU arm of EMSOU helped locate the suspect’s missing phone, linking him to the crime scene. The 26-year-old is currently serving a 32-year life sentence.
EMSOU also has a dedicated ‘cold case’ team. The Regional Review Unit looks at unsolved cases in a bid to identify further forensic opportunities following the advancement of technology and capabilities. Through this work EMSOU has identified and brought convictions for murderers and rapists decades after they committed their crimes. The team also reviews more recent ongoing areas of good practise and areas for development.
When you hear the word ‘forensics’, what springs to mind? A fibre of clothing or a fingerprint being the difference between a guilty or not guilty verdict? A drop of blood at a crime scene helping catch a killer? But what does your digital DNA say about you?
Within the East Midlands, every piece of forensic evidence is managed by EMSOU Forensic Services. Each force also has its own cadre of Crime Scene Investigators who are on hand, day or night, to gather up and preserve vital evidence. Our laboratories take care of all of the ‘wet’ forensics; from testing DNA and matching fingerprints or footprints, to handling exhibits and identifying drug purity. The ‘dry’ forensics of digital devices is also handled by EMSOU specialists. A person’s digital footprint can tell us a lot about routines, hobbies, and movements, which are all important information that could help us crack a case.
Counter Terrorism Policing East Midlands (CTP EM) plays a key role in reducing the risk to the region from acts of terror and extremism, so people can go about their lives freely and with confidence. The team gathers intelligence on and investigates people of interest, monitors and protects our ports and borders, provides security advice for national infrastructure, hazardous sites and crowded places, and safeguards vulnerable people from radicalisation. From April 2019 to March 2020, CTP EM made 14 arrests across the region.
Regional Deputy Chief Constable Chris Haward said: “EMSOU is the pre-eminent policing collaboration in the UK tackling organised crime, major crime and terrorism, as well as delivering comprehensive forensic services to the region. We provide demonstrable value to the region, protecting people from serious harm or loss and ensuring the East Midlands is able to respond effectively to national threats and emergencies.
"We have an exceptional reputation locally and are often held up nationally as the blueprint for collaboration in the UK. That reputation has been hard earned and is evident today in the outstanding results we achieve every year. Criminals do not stop their activity where one police force ends and another begins. That is why we are strong as a five force collaboration and I will continue to encourage the provision of a service that goes above and beyond the expectations of the East Midlands forces. It is my privilege to lead such an incredible team and it gives me great pride to see the achievements and results they bring every single day.”