In the ongoing Operation Vulcan , police have taken more than £6 million worth of counterfeit products from Manchester’s notorious “Counterfeit Street.”
Easter has traditionally been one of the busiest periods of the year for the fake goods stores in the Cheetham Hill and Strangeways areas, according to Greater Manchester Police.
However, this year’s counterfeit commerce has been hampered by the closure of 18 stores in the last two weeks.
Over the past fortnight, police have encountered dilapidated buildings littered with rat urine and faeces, dangerous homemade electricity, hidden weapons, and shops without proper means of escape.
The seized Items will be repurposed and recycled, and turned into items the community can benefit from – including coats, hats, insulation, and even energy for houses.
GMP says ‘relentless action by Operation Vulcan’ is starting to take its toll on Manchester’s illegitimate trade, with the latest seizures leading to goods worth millions of pounds being removed from the criminal market.
Around 33 organised crime gangs from across the country are believed to have links to the area.
Since launching Operation Vulcan last autumn, police believe the total number of dodgy shops around Strangeways has been slashed from more than 200 to less than 10.
More than 100 people have been arrested on suspicion of a variety of different offences in that time, including 38 for drugs offences.
Inspector Andy Torkington, one of Operation Vulcan’s specialist officers, said: ‘We have been relentlessly targeting these illegitimate shops, but we are aware of the few remaining units who are attempting to operate in the area. We will be targeting these premises imminently and our investigations will continue as we seek out and arrest those involved.
‘We are seeing excellent progress in the area, and the feedback from the public has been overwhelmingly supportive, but there is still more to be done.
‘The criminality has been embedded into the area for decades, and we’re under no illusion that five months of relentless action will solve it, but these results show great strides in the right direction.
‘We need the community side by side with us, sharing information so we can act upon it and bring these people to justice. Operation Vulcan has unwavering support from partner agencies across Greater Manchester which will enable us to stamp out the criminality and build stronger communities.’
An earlier raid on the area saw police seize £60k in fake cosmetics and beauty products, which were found to contain traces of cyanide and human urine.
Included in the haul were around 400 perfume bottles and seven tonnes of counterfeit clothing and accessories, including knock-off beauty products from fake designer brands such as Chanel, Armani, Dior and Hugo Boss.
Police also found more than 50 people being held against their will in a shop on Great Dulcie Street, in a building used to store goods which was littered with rat urine and faeces.
After freeing the trapped people, Greater Manchester Police said: ‘Officers discovered incredibly dangerous infrastructure and signs of exploitative labour, including an underground homemade air conditioning system the staff had made by drilling holes into the pipes on the ceiling.’