Although other global cities are now more commonly identified with organised crime Londom, the U.K’s capital city was almost certainly the first to establish itself as a global gang capital. It says much about the effectiveness of the British police that criminal gangs have not become part of the system as they have in other major capital cities.
We’ve written elsewhere on this site about the Brummagem Boys and how they operated with and fought against London gangs such as the Hoxton Mob and the Italian Mob in the 1930s but those latter two were just part of a large array of territorial and ethnically separated criminal organisations.
London’s attraction for immigrants from all over the world in the 20th century (and earlier) inevitably led to a type of ghetto-isation of the new communities involved. As the newcomers rubbed up against the established communities and tensions arose, organisations were set up to protect the various cultures and the areas in which they lived.
As time passed these groups almost inevitably diverted their attention to illegal and lucrative activities, morphing into much more recognisable criminal enterprises. Of course the established Anglo-Saxon communities also had their own groups and over time a pattern emerged where the illegal activities of each area were controlled by one group; in the next area it would be controlled by a different, perhaps ethnically separate group. Jewish (the Yiddishers) and Italian gangs (Charles Sabini’s Italian Mob) were prolific at this stage but it was just the beginning of an era in which a new type of professional gangster would take control.
In the 1960s families such as the Krays and the Richardsons dominated large parts of
London (read more here) but were gradually brought down by determined police investigation by forces outside the capital; the Metropolitan police were known to be too far under the influence of organised crime to get the job done. In fact some 700 officers were ‘retired early’ when Robert Mark took over the Met in 1972.
London now plays host to organised crime groups from around the world; very few major global crime groups don’t have some sort of presence in the capital – Jamaican Yardies, Russians and Hells Angels to name a few. At the lowest level gangs populated mainly by teenagers still maintain territorial boundaries in the areas in which they live and they are still largely based on ethnicity, whether it be black, Asian or white gangs.