Feuds and guns raise threat of crime gangs in Scotland

gun gang Image copyright Getty Images

"Ongoing feuds, violence and firearms" in the central belt are increasing the threat posed by crime gangs, according to a report.

An assessment of organised crime by the National Crime Agency (NCA) has found the number of criminals involved is falling.

But the threat they present is rising.

The report - written with Police Scotland - said 164 known organised crime groups (OCGs) comprising 3,282 members were under investigation.

Police warned that despite increased activity in the central belt and recent firearms seizures, these groups still have ready access to such weapons and some are prepared to use them in public.

The shooting of Euan Johnston as he waited in his car at traffic lights in Glasgow was said to have sparked "numerous reported and unreported acts of further violence".

The 26-year-old was gunned down in the city's Tradeston area in November 2016, the only shooting murder in police records for 2016/17.

Image copyright Police Scotland
Image caption The murder of Euan Johnston inspired "numerous reported and unreported acts of further violence"

Last week, David Scott, 33, was jailed for a minimum of 22 years after being found guilty of his murder.

Judge Lady Stacey told him: "The attack was a premeditated, murderous assault involving the use of a lethal weapon. It can be correctly described as an execution.

"It was carried out in a public street."

'Public places'

The NCA report states: "There is a current threat and harm presented by feuds and rivalries between six main OCGs operating in the east and west of Scotland.

"The situation escalated in late 2016 resulting in the shooting and murder of an individual connected to OCGs.

"This then led to numerous reported and unreported acts of further violence. The risk is heightened by access to firearms, including automatic weapons."

Image copyright Crown Office
Image caption Firearms discovered in a concealed compartment at the back of a car in a recent organised crime trial

It added: "A number of the attacks have been carried out in public places.

"Despite recent firearms seizures, it is assessed that the OCGs continue to have ready access to firearms that some may be willing to use within public places."

The strategic assessment of serious and organised crime for 2018 states two thirds of organised crime gangs in Scotland are involved in drug trafficking, with Spain, followed by Holland and China, the main non-UK supply areas for illegal drugs heading to Scotland.

Human trafficking

Liverpool is said to be the primary source of drugs supply to Scotland with "significant connections" between criminal gangs in the two areas.

Crime gangs are also involved in human trafficking across Scotland, with sex trafficking said to mainly involve adult women from Romania or Slovakia being exploited by perpetrators from these same countries.

Image caption Crime gangs in Scotland are also involved in human trafficking

Perpetrators and victims of people trafficking for slave labour in Scotland also tend to share a country of origin, the report states, including Latvia, Vietnam and China.

The report indicates abuse of the Common Travel Area between Loch Ryan and Cairnryan ports in Dumfries and Galloway, with commercial ships said to have been used in relation to human trafficking, immigration abuse and "potential extremist travel".

Roll on/roll off freight ships are said to have been used to enable illegal immigrants and Class A drugs to get into Scotland.

The Scottish government said it was committed to making sure there was "no respite in tackling organised crime and the harm it causes".

A spokesman said: "Through the Serious Organised Crime Taskforce, we will work with communities to identify areas of concern and develop initiatives to tackle and mitigate its impact.

"Our law enforcement and other agencies continue to have the powers and resources to disrupt and dismantle serious organised crime in all its guises. Last month new measures came into force to widen what can be classed as cash when seizing criminal assets."

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