Crime in Liverpool

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Street gangs in Liverpool have been in existence since the mid-19th century. There were also various sectarian 'political' gangs based in and around Liverpool during this period.[1] Dr Michael Macilwee of Liverpool John Moores University and author of The Gangs of Liverpool states, "You can learn lessons from the past and it's fascinating to compare the newspaper headlines of today with those from the late 1800s. The issues are exactly the same. People were worried about rising youth crime and the influence of 'penny dreadfuls' on people's behaviour. Like today, some commentators demanded longer prison sentences and even flogging while others called for better education and more youth clubs."

In the early 1980s Liverpool was tagged by the media as 'Smack City' or 'Skag City' after it experienced an explosion in organised gang crime and heroin abuse, especially within the city's more deprived areas.[2][3] At the same time several criminal gangs began developing into drug dealing cartels in the city, including the Liverpool Mafia, which was the first such cartel to develop in the UK. As drugs became increasingly valuable, large distribution networks were developed with cocaine producers in South America, including the Cali cartel.[4] Over time, several Liverpool gangsters became increasingly wealthy, including Colin 'Smigger' Smith, who had an estimated fortune of £200m[5] and Curtis 'Cocky' Warren, whose estimated wealth once saw him listed on the Sunday Times Rich List.[6]

Liverpudlian organised crime 'firms' are internationally active mainly, but not limited to the drug trade. Crime groups from Liverpool are known for trafficking drugs in the Netherlands[7] and it has also been suggested that distribution networks for illicit drugs within Ireland and the UK, and even allegedly some Mediterranean holiday resorts, are today controlled by various Liverpool gangs.[8][9]

A report in the Observer newspaper written by journalist Peter Beaumont entitled Gangsters put Liverpool top of gun league (28 May 1995), observed that turf wars had erupted within Liverpool. The high levels of violence in the city came to a head in 1996 when, following the shooting of gangster David Ungi, six shootings occurred in seven days, prompting Merseyside Police to become one of the first police forces in the country to openly carry weapons in the fight against gun crime.[10] Official Home Office statistics revealed a total of 3,387 offences involving firearms had occurred in the Merseyside region during a four-year period between 1997 and 2001.[11] It was revealed that Liverpool was the main centre for organised crime in the North of England[12]

In August 2007 the ongoing war between two rival gangs caused nationwide outrage, when innocent 11-year-old Rhys Jones was shot in the neck and died in his mother's arms in the car park of the Fir Tree pub in Croxteth Liverpool.[13] On 16 December 2008, Sean Mercer was convicted of the murder and ordered to serve a minimum tariff of 22 years by trial judge Mr Justice Irwin.[14]

The Whitney gang were a notorious family gang from the Anfield district of Liverpool. As of November 2011, all members of the Whitney gang have been jailed for 82 years. The last member to be extradited from Spain was Anthony "Tony" Whitney from his home in Dénia where he got mixed up in another smuggling plot, and was apprehended for smuggling 50,000 tablets of an ecstasy-type substance.[15]


  1. [1]
  2. [2]
  3. [3]
  4. Thompson, Tony (18 May 2008). "Colombian 'hit' that set off a UK cocaine war". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 May 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Rossington, Ben. "Liverpool's top gangster Colin Smith shot dead". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 12 May 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Gangster freed from Dutch prison". BBC News. 14 June 2007. Retrieved 12 May 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. BBC – Inside Out – North West – Gangster town
  8. [4]
  9. [5]
  10. Thompson, Tony (8 April 2001). "Drug gangs' spate of turf war killings". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 May 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. [6]
  12. icLiverpool – Liverpool revealed as centre for organised crime in North
  13. Boy, 11, dies after pub shooting BBC, accessed 28/10/07
  14. Life term for Rhys Jones killer
  15. Last member of Whitney gang extradited from Spain – Liverpool Echo