It is a neat family home in a cul-de-sac in a Trafford suburb - but it became a target in a regional-wide police investigation.

Three deadly knives purchased online from China which had been destined for address were intercepted.

Greater Manchester Police followed up with a knock on the door as part of Operation Siren with the Royal Mail, the Border Force, and five other police forces.

The aim is to stem the flow of thousands of cheap 'pocket money' priced illegal blades which are coming into the north west, including Greater Manchester.

This week 180 knives, swords, and other prohibited weapons were seized in a crackdown led by the North West Organised Crime Unit.

In Greater Manchester 74 weapons were recovered - ten swords, 15 knuckle dusters, 25 knives, and 24 batons.

But the Trafford address was no organised crime group's bolt hole or safe house.

The blades had been ordered from Wish.com, an internet platform based in San Francisco which sells at vast array of goods at cheap prices aimed at young people.

The person who placed the order was a 17-year-old boy scout.

He had bought three flick knives - illegal in the UK - for himself, his brother, and his father to use in 'explorer' scouting expeditions.

The website is now working with GMP and five other north west police forces and has removed illegal knives from its UK lsitings.

But at the time the boy ordered them there was no warning about their prohibited status and no age checks on purchasers.

The visit from GMP was a shock to the boy and his parents.

Some of the intercepted knives

The teenager, who the Manchester Evening News is not naming, said: "I went online on Wish, scanning through. I thought these look good for scouting and ordered them. They were £15 each.

"My parents knew I was ordering them. They would have been used to mould kindling and make wood shavings.

"I later noticed that the delivery had got stopped and was refunded. Then two months later the police came knocking.

"I was in shock, but I thought 'I know what this is about'. I was thinking 'why have they bothered coming because they have been stopped'. They were described as outdoor tools by Wish.

"The police spoke to me about knife crime and said it was an offence to buy them."

The boy's father, a scout leader for more than 20 years, said: "The knives were not listed as flick knives. He had ordered one for me for as a Christmas present. He showed me and I said 'I like that'.

"It wasn't a case of him being online and we didn't know. The website never asked for his age or anything. I thought it was a fixed blade knife from the picture.

"We had a good chat with the police about legalities. We did not realise the knives were illegal."

The boy's mother said: "When the police knocked I first said to him 'what have you been up to'. But the police said someone had been ordering off Wish and I knew straightaway what it was. I think it is a good thing what the police are doing."

Some of the weapons intercepted by GMP

His father added: "We do use knives in a controlled environment. Scouting has its own policy organisation and rules regarding knives. They are handed out for an activity and then locked up again afterwards. Kids are only allowed a folding penknife with a blade of up to three inches."

Sergeant Paul Nolan of GMP's Violence Reduction Unit was one of the officers who visited the family.

He said: "We received notification of the seizure from Border Force. That lead to the deployment of an officer from the Unit to the address. The purpose of the visit was to have a conversation; to establish if the lad who ordered the weapons is at that address and highlight the issues of importation.

"From a safeguarding point of view we need to establish is there anything we need to be aware of. It became evident that there was an element of mitigation and no safeguarding issues, and no need for any other form of support.

"This prompted another visit from me with a few to getting involved with the scout movement to discuss if there is something educational scouts can provide.

"This case highlights that people in scouting and other organisations may go online and order banned weapons which they believe can have a legitimate use."

Some of the weapons intercepted by GMP

During this week 109 'cease and desist' notices were issued across the region to educate potential buyers of illegal knives and to discourage further offending. One man was arrested.

Detective Chief Inspector Mark Ankers of the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit said: "Make no mistake, some of these weapons will have been purchased with best intentions not necessarily destined for criminal use. For those people this operation is very much about education.

"The other element of it is clearly these weapons were purchased for the furtherance of criminal offences.

"It is that very real threat which means that this operation is very significant.  We work closely with our Border Force and NCA partners. It is our job to try and prevent the opportunities that arise for the weapons to come in."

"During Operation Siren intended recipients of these weapons were visited and dealt with proportionately. Some is through education - informing them of what they shouldn't be doing. We will robustly deal with those individuals that intend to use these weapons for furtherance of criminal offences. They may means, warrants, arrests, and conviction.

"The message is: to people thinking of importing weapons, think again. If you continue to do it - it won't be the postman knocking on the door but the police."

Sgt Paul Ogden of GMP's Violence Reduction Unit with weapons destined for Greater Manchester that were intercepted.

"It is also about working with the people that allow people to purchase them. There are lines of communication open with Wish.com to try and prevent. All the talk we have had with them means they are going to remove them from the (UK) market.

He said that police forces in the region were working with other platforms as well as Wish.

"The knives go through a screening process and are being picked up in that way by the UK Border Force. If they were labelled as a combat knife they would not get through, so they are disguised on the packaging as something else."

"We have seen them come from areas of Europe and the Baltic States as well as China. The worldwide platform provides an opportunity of a worldwide marketplace - so it is there for everyone to exploit."

Wish have put a block on anyone searching for knives, knuckle dusters, batons, in the UK.

Sgt Paul Nolan said: "The conversations with Wish.com are moving in the right direction. They are in a position where they want to help us.

"Within five days of a seizure the police force and the district where the package is destined for are made aware. We will then visit and ask, why did you need to buy a weapon on the Internet; what market place have you used, and what is your perception of knife crime within your community.

"For me that's the bonus of the operation - it allows GMP to attend an address, and start a conversation that will help us understand why people are ordering these weapons on the internet. Some of those visits will end in arrest, some will be voluntary interviews, but some will be around education.

"With Operation Siren another benefit is when we talk to people who have ordered the knife we can establish who they are buying from and so we are gathering intelligence as well. I can see who the exporters are from the package, but you can't necessarily see which platform has been used to order.

"I am asking officers to visit with almost a problem solving mentality for safeguarding. There may be a person who wants to buy a knife because they look cool, or they feel they need to carry a weapon and we can address that.  There may be a young person who is ordering for someone else - so they are the subject of exploitation.

"I think the arrival of these weapons in Greater Manchester in this fashion is a significant problem. We ask, why are people having them - knife-enabled crime is a major issue - so we wanted to know where these weapons were coming from.

"One weapon not being on the street is significant."

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Detective Superintendent Ryan Davies from the North West ROCU said: “Thanks to this intelligence-led, co-ordinated operation a significant number of knives and weapons have been seized and won’t make it to the streets of our region, where they can cause serious harm.

“This operation is a powerful example of how collaborative working is making a difference in the fight against serious and organised crime in the North West.”

“Be warned, anyone who is thinking about buying knives or weapons either online or by any other means from overseas. You are committing an offence by bringing them into the country.  You face the full force of the law if you do so."

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