Rogue truckers bringing guns, drugs and contraband into Merseyside are being targeted by law enforcement agencies during a 12-month crackdown.
The operation - codenamed "Hedgehunter" - is being led by Titan, the North West Regional Crime Unit.
Senior invetigating officerDetective Chief Inspector Janet Hudson said: "This is the first time Titan has led an operation targeting haulage companies as the movers and shakers in serious and organised crime in this region.
"Almost all organised crime affecting the North West involves commodities like drugs, weapons or contraband crossing our borders illegally and end up fuelling crime on the streets of our communities and damaging people’s lives.
"By targeting rogue elements within the haulage industry we are disrupting this supply chain, driving the criminal element out of trucking and firing a warning shot across their bows that we are going to be looking very closely at their business practices."
Police say the operation is aimed at:
• Disrupting criminal activity by rogue elements within the haulage industry
• Gathering information about who is involved
• Supporting law-abiding members of the trucking industry whose profits and livelihoods are being threatened by criminals.
Detective Chf Insp Hudson continued: "The vast majority of firms are run by decent, law-abiding people who are simply trying to run a legitimate business and make a living. But they are not competing on a level playing field because some of their rivals are using the proceeds from organised crime to expand their business unfairly.
"My message to them is help us put a stop to this by sharing what you know about suspicious or illegal activity in your industry.”
A high-profile awareness-raising campaign aimed at truck drivers and other motorway users will also encourage them to report any information about illegal or suspicious activity anonymously to Crimestoppers.
Leaflets with an eye-catching image of a set of truck doors with the slogan: ‘Illegal load on board?’ will be placed by Border Force officers in the passports of truck drivers going through security checks at key ports. Business cards will also be handed to them in cafes and garages in the region’s main motorway truck stops.
Law enforcement agencies and border officials have successfully targeted hauliers from all over the country and Europe in the past with millions of pounds of drugs seized and offenders being given double-digit prison sentences.
Operation Hedgehunter is being supported by independent charity Crimestoppers, Border Force, the Serious Organised Crime Agency, HM Revenue & Customs as well as all six regional police forces and other agencies.