An operation focusing on drug dealers who flooded Macclesfield with crack cocaine and heroin was triggered by serious and volatile disputes between rival gangs.
On a daily basis and in full view of the local community the gangs, mostly from Manchester and Liverpool, would be seen brandishing weapons to threaten other drug dealers/users and to protect themselves.
Information coming in from the public included a firearm being discharged and the weapon being used to issue threats. There were also reports of gangs attacking each other with machetes and one gang member allegedly having their finger amputated.
Police also pursued a gang of youths in a car following reports of intimidation linked to drug dealing and recovered a large sword inside the vehicle.
On two occasions innocent members of the public were assaulted and their mobile phones deliberately damaged after they captured drugs being dealt openly in local parks.
Detective Inspector Adam Alexander, of Macclesfield Local Policing Unit, said: “These gangs were not only causing serious harm to each other but also to the local community and that was of great concern to us.
“For local residents, Macclesfield is their home, yet it was reaching the point where they were too scared to walk down their own street or visit the shop for fear of what violence or drug dealing they would encounter.
“It was clear this activity was only going to get worse unless we found a long-term solution to disrupt the gangs who were brazenly violent.”
That solution was a year-long operation by Cheshire Constabulary’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit to get to the root of the gangs in order to stop the violence and disrupt the drug dealing that was destroying the lives of those who lived in the community.
On Friday 18 October, almost 18 months since that operation began, the remaining drug dealers were locked up - seven gangs involving 22 men and three women are now behind bars for a total of 118 years and 10 months.
The court heard that the most violent act by the gangs involved a young teenage boy who suffered horrific injuries to his face after he was slashed by a large knife in the Macclesfield area believed to have been fuelled by drugs supply. The investigation later discovered the boy was found to have been a victim of criminal exploitation by one of the gangs. There were also reports of young teenagers being used by the gangs as street dealers in Macclesfield.
As the investigation progressed it became clear that the leaders of the four gangs were all operating under a county lines drugs conspiracy by supplying class A drugs from the city of Manchester. They would use a phone line - known as a graft - to receive drug orders then recruit local street dealers to sell the heroin and crack cocaine to users in the small towns of Macclesfield and Congleton.
Codenamed Operation Vulcanise, close observation and the gangs’ use of mobile phones uncovered the extent of their activity. This included exploiting vulnerable adults who may have needed to pay off a drugs debt or were addicts themselves.
One gang was found to have exploited a vulnerable 30-year-old woman and coerced her into dealing drugs on their behalf.
The gangs would either befriend, manipulate or force their way into their homes with the intention of using it to store and sell drugs – a term known as cuckooing. People were seen making frequent visits to the properties, drivers and couriers would come and go and calls were made outside the address.
Street dealers would use alleyways, a cemetery and parks to supply users with heroin and crack cocaine - many of the deals took place during the day while children played and members of the public walked nearby.
Detective Chief Inspector Mike Evans, of Cheshire’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit, said: “In cases where there are pockets of gangs operating a busy drugs market in a small town, serious violence will take place predominantly behind the scenes – and most of it going unreported to police. These drug dealers had no connection to Macclesfield and would travel into the town on a daily basis purely to prey on local users.
“What came to light during the operation was the harm the gangs inflicted on vulnerable people and residents within this community, while also going to great lengths to exploit youngsters for their profit margins.
“The team worked incredibly hard for a long period of time to eradicate these drug gangs and their violence to make the local community a safer place and to protect vulnerable people who feel trapped in this world.
“I hope this reassures residents that we do take action and I would encourage those who think drug activity is happening in their area to contact Cheshire Police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”
Police and Crime Commissioner, David Keane, added: “County lines drugs activity can have a devastating effect on our communities. Local residents should feel safe in their home town and not feel bullied or threatened by violent offenders inflicting havoc on their community.
“The hard work and determination of the detectives who worked on this case has made Macclesfield a safer place and has ensured that dangerous gangs have been taken off Cheshire’s streets.
“These prosecutions should send a clear message to offenders that serious and organised crime will not be tolerated by police in Cheshire.”
David Rutley MP said: “Having recently been out on the beat with officers who are focussed on disrupting drug dealing and supplying in our area, I have seen for myself the clear commitment and focus of Cheshire Police in tackling the scourge of county lines drug crimes.
“This sentencing, like those before it, is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our local police men and women, whose actions are helping to keep drugs out of our towns and our communities safer. They have my full support in this vital work.”
The AJ Team
This gang, all based in Manchester, was headed up by Nico Edgar assisted closely by Kayson Thomas and Joshua Beardmore as the local dealer. In March last year, Edgar was caught driving into Macclesfield with wraps of heroin and crack cocaine in his car ready to be sold to users. On numerous occasions he sold drugs to an officer acting as a user and, along with Thomas, was spotted making numerous drug runs to an address in Macclesfield.
On a daily basis the gang’s graft phone would send flare messages to between 50-60 phone numbers advertising deals to local users, one read ‘AJ back on this number every day from 9am to 8pm best in town’. They are believed to have supplied 3.44kg of class A drugs.
The Jay Team
This county lines team would send around 60 flare messages to drug users on a daily basis.
Fabion Wilks would hire cars to travel into Macclesfield from Manchester where he would supply crack cocaine and heroin to users. Both Wilkes and Chyna Jasper – who had significant roles – were caught directly supplying undercover officers with drugs.
On 28 September 2018 Wilks drove off in his BMW when police attempted to stop him. A pursuit took place and he drove through a red light and onto a pavement next to a bus stop. He eventually came to a stop after a HGV blocked his route and was boxed in by two police cars. Shortly before being stopped and arrested outside Macclesfield Football Club he attempted to discard a bag containing between 50 and 80 deals of class A by throwing them out of the car window. He was found with £319 in his possession and a phone which had sent out 78 flare messages that day.
The Junior Team
The junior team’s county lines activity operated from Manchester with graft phones used to facilitate and co-ordinate the supply of heroin and crack cocaine into Macclesfield.
Undercover officers were deployed into the local community to snare the junior team with Liam Parsons, Thomas Cole, Mark Lovenbury, Clare Regan and Michael Wickham caught supplying heroin directly to them.
Kane Birch controlled the graft phone which, on one occasion, was used to send out 221 flare messages in one hour advertising the sale of crack cocaine and heroin.
Following Birch’s arrest, Wade Wilson took over the running of the graft phone. He was caught buying a £15 top-up from a corner shop on Moss Lane to be used to send flare messages on the graft phone 25 minutes later.
On CCTV, Wilson was caught buying a £15 top-up from a corner shop on Moss Lane to be used to send flare messages on a graft phone 25 minutes later.
Parsons, who operated as a street dealer, travelled from Manchester to Macclesfield by train with the sole purpose of co-ordinating the supply of crack cocaine and heroin. He would base himself in different addresses belonging to local users and use their homes as a den in return for giving them drugs.
Kane Birch was arrested at the Village Hotel in Warrington where he was found in the leisure facilities alongside Macauley Peacock.
The Yardies Team
Throughout the operation this team changed their graft phone number up to 13 times in an attempt to avoid being detected.
The leader of the gang Rico Robinson would supply drugs to users and oversee the dealing. He was spotted consistently travelling into Macclesfield by train from Manchester on a daily basis.
He attempted to conceal his identity by wearing his hood up as he dealt class A drugs to users at the gates of a cemetery. When he was arrested at the train station he had £430 in his possession and had tried to swallow his sim card, which had been used that morning to send 67 flare messages.
Tayte Taylor-Bell taught a 16-year-old boy how to deal drugs while he himself would regularly travel from Manchester to supply crack cocaine and heroin.
Michael Hayes was arrested at an address on Buckfast Close in Macclesfield where he admitted supplying drugs for Robinson and, in return for cash and drugs, he allowed his home to be used as a drugs den.