CRIMINALS have been stripped of more than £1m this year as police wage a war on their illegal profits.

One Cumbria's most senior detectives has spoken of stunning recent successes as police target the criminal cash circulating in the county - much of it linked to drugs.

Following a Freedom of Information question from the News & Star, Cumbria Constabulary has spelled out its rapidly improving record for clawing back illicit cash from criminals.

The figures show an escalation in the force's court-approved cash seizures for the three years up to January this year. In 2018, police seized £12,265 from criminals.

The following year, the county's figure rose to £28,135.

By last year, cash seizures had risen to £394,000 - the amount including one-off seizures of £89,000 and £60,000 in north Cumbria and one seizure of £59,000 in south Cumbria.

Detective Chief Superintendent Dean Holden said that so far this year police have already clawed back more than £1m in criminal cash - through both cash seizures and Proceeds of Crime applications in courts.

The successes, he said, are largely down to a more integrated approach, with intelligence effectively shared between a wide range of police specialists - surveillance teams, serious and organised crime detectives, uniformed and firearms officers, and roads policing teams.

"Our focus this year has been on hitting these criminals where it hurts - by taking their money," he said.

"We routinely target individuals and catch them with Class A drugs – particularly the couriers. They go to jail and the dealers lose that commodity - but it’s easy to replace.

"Targeting the cash couriers is far more impactful."

Police are allowed to retain 18.75 per cent of the money seized through Proceeds of Crime Applications (POCA) With uncontested cash seizures, the force keeps 50 per cent of the money.

Det Chief Supt Holden added: "It’s a quick win for us; and it’s not just the Cumbrian criminals. We have a long stretch of the M6. If we have intelligence that somebody’s coming through Cumbria [with drugs or criminal cash] they’ll be stopped.

"We have a roads policing unit who are really good at this."

He said county lines drug running was a particular challenge but police have had some exceptional results in smashing these gangs in Carlisle and Barrow in particular.

Recent successes in Cumbria have include:

* October, 2020: Magistrates approved the seizure of £22,000, which officers investigating possible drugs offences saw being dumped in a wheelie bin by a fleeing man in Henderson Road, Currock, Carlisle. The man said to have discarded the bag - Jordan Lee Carney, 23, from that road - did not turn up at the court.

* June, 2020: A court sanctioned the seizure of three Rolex watches worth £28,000 – along with an imitation Walther CP99 pistol and £59,000 cash, found in a safe the School Road home in Cumhinton, near Carlisle, of drug dealer Simon Pipes. Officer's also raided the 29-year-old's' lock-up at Willowholme, finding a transit van, an Audi Q3, and a 2013 Porsche Cayenne. All were seized.

* May, 2021: Magistrates allowed police to keep £5,325 found behind a bath panel at a Port Road property where 32-year-old Lewis O’Neil was at times staying. Named as the potential claimant, he stayed away from the hearing.

* April, 2021: A court ordered Prince Will Enaruba, 26 - part of a gang trafficking drugs into Barrow - to sell his diamond-encrusted watch to pay for his crimes. Officers who raided his Signals Drive base found £1,500 cash and a Cartier Santos watch, worth £11,000. A POCA hearing heard he made £44,752 from drugs crime but had just £964 in the bank.

* May, 2021: A court said police cold keep just over £8,000 seized from the home of Sean Askins, of Huntley Avenue, Penrith. Officers suspect the cash was linked to “unlawful conduct and was intended for use in unlawful conduct.”