Which violent gangs control Britain?

Peter Bleksley, former Scotland Yard detective

Although bombs might not be going off anymore, rest assured, gangs still operate. And their grip on criminality is vice-like which they are not about to loosen anytime soon.

Most of my career was dedicated to tackling serious and organised crime. From London to Lancashire, and from Devon to Dundee, gangs are operating in the UK and they are a danger to us all.


The makeup of gangs in London has changed dramatically in the last few decades. Now, Albanian gangs are prevalent. One gang call themselves Hell-banians.

They've got a firm grip on the cocaine trade in London, estimated to be as much as £5bn pounds. Violence, torture and murder are the tools of their trade.

The commodity they're most interested in is drugs. It's complex, dangerous, and a huge issue for law enforcement.


Gangs are such a problem in the nation's second city that the Serious Crime Squad has doubled in size. About 40 gangs operate in the city, with a tight grip on a lot of the criminality.

Birmingham gangs like so many of the others throughout the country, predominantly operate in drugs. But they also get involved in people trafficking, the sex industry, fraud, and stealing of high-value motor vehicles.


Liverpool is renowned as a significant city in which gangs operate and through which much of the drugs industry of the UK is linked.

Innocent people get caught up in the gunfire in the turf battles and lose their lives.

The most tragic example of gangs activity landing on the streets of Liverpool was the murder last year of nine-year-old Olivia Pratt-Corbel.

Her death was a direct result of criminal gangs falling out and carrying out retribution on the streets.


The word on the street that reaches me is that Manchester gangs are the most feared of all. I operated undercover against them and they were the most fearsome I came across.

When I went for a meeting, there was always a nine millimetre pistol on the table, pointing at me, just in case I should get ideas above my station.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland is almost unique in the UK. Most of its criminality has been driven by sectarian disputes over the years - Catholics versus Protestants. It is 25 years since the Good Friday Agreement was signed, and a lot of terrorism activity has faded away and the bombs and the bullets are largely a thing of the past, but the drug dealing continues.

The Kinahan clan have earned their reputation over the years. It is undeniable their tentacles of criminality stretch far and wide through to Spain, other parts of Europe, across the Atlantic and beyond.


Many years ago, Glasgow had a dreadful reputation as extremely violent city. A lot of people have done a lot of work to reduce the violence, but gangs still operate. Gangs cannot take their disputes to the court. They can't get a solicitor to write a letter. They have to resort to violence. It's their currency.

That is why gang membership should be swerved at all costs. For the past 50 years, in terms of tackling criminal gangs, we've done exactly the same thing again, and again, and again and achieved very little.