POLICE proved crime can pay – for law-abiding young footballers who benefited from criminals’ ill-gotten gains.
Using money seized from major criminals, Durham Police provided all 150 members of the Shotton Colts youth football teams with a new team shirt bearing the logo Sledgehammer across the chest.
Operation Sledgehammer was launched in 2010 to tackle serious and organised crime, recovering £421,000 from convicted criminals in the last financial year.
A string of operations has led to dozens of offenders being put behind bars, with many of them facing further action when police applied to the courts for seizure orders relating to the money and assets they acquired through their criminal lifestyle.
Cash seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act can be used as part of the continuing campaign, to be put towards community-based initiatives.
Some of the money was used to buy the new strips for Shotton Colts, who play in the Russell Foster youth league and are based at Shotton Community Park, with players come from places including Peterlee and Hartlepool.
Det Chief Insp Victoria Fuller, from the force’s serious and organised crime unit, said neighbourhood officers had identified the Colts as a good cause and added: “This presented us with the ideal way in which to engage with our younger communities in an area where we have effectively disrupted organised criminals.
“We hope the Sledgehammer football shirts help them to be positive about the police and to see the work we do in the community in a positive light. In the longer term we hope it encourages young people to join us in the fight against crime.”