London gangs ‘becoming more ruthless and moving out of capital’

‘It’s no longer about postcodes, it’s about money’: London now has 250 gangs who use teenage drug mules to shift Class As across ‘county lines’ – as mobs forge alliances like ‘McDonald’s franchises’

  • London gangs becoming more ruthless as they bid to take control of counties
  • They are turning into mini ‘McMafias’ as London’s drugs markets saturates 
  • Young children and girls recruited to act as mules as they are less suspicious
  • Reports examines links to terror networks, with jihadis offering ‘redemption’

London gangs are becoming more violent and ruthless as they move away from postcode battles towards building McDonald’s style ‘business models’ to deal drugs around the country.

A saturated drugs market in the capital means gangs are looking further afield and using young children, women and girls to traffic illegal substances.

One gang member, interviewed as part of a major new report, said: ‘It’s not about postcodes any more. It’s about money.’

More alarmingly, the report examines claims that terrorist networks and gangs could be overlapping, with jihadis offering criminals a ‘redemption narrative’ to join extremists.

London gangs are becoming better organised and more ruthless as they battle to take control of drugs markets around the country, a report published today has found

Researchers estimate there are around 250 recognised gangs in London, made up of around 4,500 criminals.

Today’s report, written by Dr Andrew Whittaker and other academics at London’s South Bank University, identifies four ‘stages’ of London gangs, as they move from rag-tag groups of yobs to business-like drugs monopolies. 

The first stage is the ‘recreation’ stage where crimes like joyriding, vandalism and brawling are carried out for kicks.


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The gang then moves onto a ‘crime’ stage, where members use offences to financially support the gang and create an identity, often around a London postcode.

Gangs are then increasingly moving on to ‘enterprise’ and ‘governance’ stages, where a hierarchy forms and they look to build market share rather than control territory.

The report, produced for Waltham Forest council, states: ‘The focus of the new operating model is expanding territory to secure new drugs markets.

‘In response to the saturation of the London drugs markets, gangs are moving outside to develop operations in other towns where there is little competition and they are unknown to local law enforcement agencies.’

A map shows how certain gangs control areas of London before looking further afield

Are gangs merging with terror networks? 

Today’s report looks at claims terrorist networks and gangs could be overlapping as criminals and jihadis target the same group of youngsters looking for an identity.

It quotes a local youth worker as saying: ‘The same people who are susceptible to radicalisation are the kind of people who are susceptible to criminal exploitation as well.

‘[They are] suggestible, behavioural, emotional,psychological issues, maybe less support from families, maybe have been in prison before… it’s almost bad luck which avenue you get picked up by.’

It also suggests jihadists offer criminals a ‘redemption narrative’ and a new identity. One jihadist group even produced a leaflet called ‘Sometimes people with the worst pasts create the best futures’.

However, the report finds that many jihadists are reluctant to recruit criminals because they attract the attention of police and talk to too many people.

The report found no links between extremists and gangs in Waltham Forest but warns ‘the situation could change quickly’.

A recent National Crime Agency report found that nine out of ten areas nationally reported so-called ‘county lines’ activity in their area, with a third reporting the existence of Somalian gangs, one of which is known as ‘the Mali Boys’.

Today’s report states: ‘[The Mali Boys] have led the current changes as the most business driven, violent and ruthless of the gangs but also the most secretive, working hard to remain anonymous to the police and local agencies.’

As the gangs attempt to evade arrest, they use less obvious members, including children, vulnerable adults, women and girls to do their dirty work for them.

The report continues: ‘Gangs typically use children and young people as runners to move drugs and money to and from the urban area and this often involves them being exploited through deception, intimidation, violence, debt bondage, grooming and/or trafficking by the gang.

‘In addition, gangs are known to target and exploit vulnerable adults by taking over their homes to use as a local base for drug dealing, a practice known as “cuckooing”.’

Nearly all of London’s gangs use young women due to their ‘low visibility’ and the gang’s knowledge that their are fewer female police officers to search them.

The report adds: ‘This involvement comes at a cost as young women and girls are increasingly exposed to violence and sexual exploitation as they fulfil a range of key roles at considerable risk to themselves.’

More rural counties in England have seen dramatic rises in knife crime, partly as a consequence of ‘county lines’ drug dealing

How London gang’s become mini McMafias

Today’s report found gangs moved through four stages as they turn from kids stealing scooters into business-like drugs operations.  

‘Recreational’:  Groups based upon friendship and family ties. Criminal activity is disorganised e.g. fighting, vandalism.

‘Crime’: Crime and violence become intrinsic to group identity. Members gain ‘respect’ by committing offences are battle rivals.

‘Enterprise’: A hierarchy forms within the organisation, with ‘business acumen’ becoming as import as brute strength.

‘Extra-legal governance‘: Gangs become monopolies in certain areas and, researchers say, ‘invest in the resources of violence, territory, secrecy, and intelligence to embed themselves’.

Source: From Postcodes to Profit report.

Commenting on his report today, Dr, Whittaker said: ‘What is striking is how ruthless and exploitative some gangs have become. 

‘It’s possible that the situation we’re seeing with gangs in Waltham Forest is indicative of a wider pan-London trend of increasing sophistication in the way that gangs operate now.

‘We know that gang members have much higher rates of mental health problems than the general population.

‘Six out of 10 gang members have anxiety disorders including post-traumatic stress disorder and a third will have attempted suicide.’

Authorities are battling to better understand London’s gangs amid a crime wave of moped robberies and other offences.

Comedian Michael McIntyre became the latest high-profile victim this week when he was mugged near his children’s school. 


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