AN operation has been launched to crack down on criminals who target HGV drivers to help them smuggle goods into the country.

Project Yali is aimed at gaining support from lorry drivers to help the authorities combat organised crime gangs intent on bringing people, drugs and other contraband goods through Teesport near Middlesbrough.

The operation, which involves the Cleveland and North Yorkshire police forces as well as the owner of the site PD Ports, is urging drivers to be more vigilant and asking that they share information in a bid to stamp out the problem.

Detective Chief Superintendent Darren Best, head of crime at Cleveland Police, said: “We are redoubling our efforts to close down opportunities for criminals to flourish – in this case – by linking into the transport community to work with us to ensure our communities are kept safe from the threat of terrorism, and illegal substances sent from abroad never make it to our streets.”

From today police will be visiting truck stops and speaking with drivers to ask for their help. The port authority will continue with their searches of vehicles coming into Teesport.

Superintendent Dave Foster, from North Yorkshire Police, said: “Project Yali is an excellent opportunity to build links with those in the haulage industry and gain valuable intelligence about those people who believe they can use ports and the road network to commit crime.

“We are very much looking forward to working with partner agencies to make this project a success.”

Frans Calje, managing director of unitised business at PD Ports, said: “This initiative will provide a unique opportunity for PD Ports to engage with the police and the transport community to work together to manage the threat from terrorism and organised crime.

“Partnership working is absolutely essential to ensure that Teesport is not targeted and our Harbour Police will play a vital role in this.”

Anyone with any information they suspect may be linked to smuggling and organised crime is asked to contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800-555111, or police on the non-emergency number 101.

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