CROOKS in Huddersfield have been warned: We’re after your ill-gotten gains.

A new police unit has been set up in Kirklees to claw back cash and possessions gathered by the criminals.

The Kirklees Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) team will have powers to investigate criminals’ financial history and calculate how much money has been made through illegal means.

The team, comprising one sergeant, two PCs and two accountants, can then apply to seize the offenders' assets through the crown courts.

POCA target areas include money laundering, confiscation and cash seizures.

Sgt Mark Taylor of the Kirklees POCA team said: "The message is plain and simple, if people engage themselves in crime centred on acquiring assets, the Kirklees POCA team will proactively clamp down upon them. Those who use proceeds of crime to lead their lives provide only distress for their victims and are in themselves negative community figures.

"Through undertaking our operations, we are able to take away their ill-gotten gains and remove them from our neighbourhoods.

"Although financial investigators have been working in Kirklees for some time, the formation of the POCA team provides us with a much greater focus. "The core business for the team will be to target those within the district who are actively involved in a wide range of illegal activity, whether that is drug dealing, counterfeit offences or sexual exploitation which are all linked by acquiring substantial assets with no legitimate sources of income."In terms of the nature of the investigations, the team will utilise a range of techniques involving a multi agency approach where evidence will be gathered over months to present at trail."

Since April last year, over £63,000 of financial assets have been seized in Kirklees. As part of West Yorkshire Police’s county-wide Proceeds of Crime Week, the newly formed team have made a number of arrests and seizures in the area.

Last week officers raided a garage on Wood Street, Longwood, and found around £2,000 worth of cannabis plants.

A 43-year-old man was arrested and £60,000 of assets identified.

Kirklees Detective Chief Inspector Dave Knopwood urged the public to help police with the new campaign.

He said: "This operation is part of our continuing drive to target those people who are using crime to fund their lifestyle.

"They do not care about the misery they bring to people who suffer from crime. "Working with the public, we can identify these individuals and then use legislation to seize their assets if we suspect they have not been obtained lawfully. I would call on members of the public to come forward and help the police to put a stop to those benefiting from the proceeds of crime."

This week coincides with the ‘Why Should They?’ campaign, which encourages the community to contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 with information regarding people who live off the proceeds of crime.

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