Crackdown on organised crime gangs sees weapons haul
SILENCED pistols, rifles and sub-machine gun rounds are among the firearms seized in the past year by the elite unit set up to take down organised crime in the Lothians.
Officers from the Serious and Organised Crime Unit also recovered seven shotguns, two revolvers and two stun guns during raids on gang members and properties.
Hollow point bullets – dubbed “dum dums” – were also recovered.
The shells shatter on impact, where conventional bullets flatten, and are designed to cause horrific internal injuries.
Weapons seized over the past 12 months included a Baikal, which has been referred to as the favoured “killing machine” of gangland criminals.
Black and compact, the semi-automatic handgun weighs, unloaded, a modest 2lbs.
The weapon can be bought illegally on the black market for around £1200 and unusually for the UK can be fitted with a silencer, earning it the nickname the “hitman kit” in gangland Edinburgh.
However, investigations by the Fettes-based unit have led to a sharp reduction in the number of such firearms on our streets since it was set up in 2009.
They have also decimated the number of incidents where firearms are discharged by individuals.
In 2012, there has been just one firearm discharge – a suicide – which marks a sharp drop from eight in 2008. No shootings were recorded in 2011.
In contrast, several years ago, the city was gripped by a string of pub shootings including at the Marmion in Gracemount in 2006, the Gauntlet in Broomhouse in 2008, and Jock’s Lodge in Restalrig in 2010.
Detective Superintendent David Gordon said despite the successes, which included crushing 11 criminal groups in the past year, the unit is seeing new kinds of weapons and is working with other forces to crack down on gun crime.
He said: “We have previously recovered weapons of this sort, but over the last year there’s been a significant increase in these types.
“We recently recovered a sub-machine magazine which was particularly unusual and we haven’t seen through here before. It would suggest they are trying to source new types of weapons.
“Another of the firearms was a converted Baikal, from Eastern Europe. Again, we’ve not seen a lot but there have been a number of recoveries throughout the UK.
“By taking these guns off the streets, there is an impact on criminals’ ability to carry out threats, abductions and robberies and safeguard our communities.”
Between November 2011 and August 2012, a range of weapons was recovered.
These also included a Winchester single barrel shotgun and a Franz Sodia shotgun, which is noted for its decorated design.
Five other shotguns, including a sawn-off model, were also recovered, along with two revolvers.
Stun guns, similar to those used by the police to incapacitate violent suspects, were retrieved from criminals in the past year, as was a silencer manufactured to suppress noise from shots.
Among those convicted for firearms possession was Scott Alexander Dick, from Edinburgh. The 25-year-old was arrested in April 2011 after being found with a rifle and sentenced to nine months jail on October 9.
Along with the damage and terror associated with firearms, the supply is also used to fund criminal organisations.
Baikal pistols are designed to be fired by gas cartridges and can be legally bought – up to 1000 at a time – in Russia and Latvia.
Organised criminal organisations abroad convert the weapons and sell them on for more than £1000 to gangs in the UK, including in Edinburgh.
The proceeds then fund their activities abroad.
Most weapons made to fire by gas cartridges are made of cheap components and are not strong enough to fire real bullets, but the Baikal is made of solid steel.
Detective Superintendent Gordon said his unit has learned from other cities with hardened criminal elements to gain the upper hand against gangs in the Lothians.
He said: “From the beginning, we drew up a strategy to target the criminal use of firearms, and using intelligence and enforcement activity to do this.
“We visited other forces, Merseyside for example, which has had considerable success in reducing the number of guns on the streets.
“A large number of the firearms recovered here are from known serious, organised crime groups, which had the capacity to cause fear and alarm to our communities. We try to generate intelligence on firearms as much as we can, allowing us to take action.”
Many officers across the force are involved in anti-gang crackdowns of some kind, but the SOCU unit tackles the toughest 20 per cent.
In November 2011, 21 gangs were identified operating in the region. Since then members of 11 have been disrupted or jailed, but the officers have identified ten more.
Since November 2011, the unit has recovered £3,390,000 worth of Class A and B drugs from criminal gangs, which were destined for the streets.
Officers have earmarked £2,075,000 in criminal goods for recovery and a further £758,000 in cash has been seized from criminal figures.
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill told the Evening News that gun and cash seizures were forcing gangs off the streets.
He said: “These positive figures are tribute to the hard work and efforts of Lothian and Borders Police officers who are taking on and taking down these gangs, making the streets of Scotland safer.”
STOLEN SHOTGUN AND FEUD THAT ENDED IN BLOODSHED
Among the most high-profile shootings was the Marmion pub killing six years ago – which involved a stolen double-barrelled shotgun.
In April 2006, Jamie Bain walked into the Marmion in Gracemount, and shot former boxer Alex McKinnon, 32, dead and left a second man, James Hendry, 27, seriously injured.
The row between Bain, 22, and his girlfriend, Dionne Hendry, the injured man’s cousin, had escalated into a bloody feud. Bain was convicted of murder and attempted murder and jailed for life.
The judge ordered that he must serve at least 22 years before he could apply for parole.
A co-accused, Richard Cosgrove, then 21, who had gone with Bain into the pub, was convicted of the same charges and received a life sentence with a minimum of 20 years.
Bernard “Ben” Young, 23, stole the shotgun from a house where he was working as a roofer. As well as supplying the gun, Young provided the ice-hockey-type masks worn by Bain and Cosgrove, and acted as the pair’s driver.
Young was also convicted of murder and attempted murder. A minimum period of 19 and a half years was set under his life sentence, though this was cut on appeal to 17 years.
Firearms for hire from £50 a day
A POLICE informer has revealed the terrifying ease with which handguns and semi-automatic rifles can be obtained in Edinburgh.
He said illegal firearms can be hired from underworld armourers from as little as £50 a day – complete with a stash of ammo.
The underworld figure said: “If you’re in the know you can make a couple of phone calls and be in possession of a firearm within minutes.
“Guns are kept at various locations across the city by go-to men who make their living hiring them out to other criminals.
“For a bog standard handgun and enough ammunition to make it a viable threat, you’re looking at £50 a day. But the cost is higher for other more exotic weapons.
“A .44 Magnum, which is popular because of the Dirty Harry movies, costs double at most ‘shops’.
“Heavy artillery – and by that I mean semi automatic and sub machine guns – is normally worked out on a case by case basis.
“Because they’re harder to get hold of, they demand a premium. But they’re what a lot of people want – simply because of their scare factor.”
The highly placed source – who did not wish to be named for fear of reprisals – said there are at least 15 such outlets to the best of his knowledge within the Capital’s boundaries.
“To be fair to the authorities, tighter gun controls have probably worked, which is why these guys have a market.
“Coupled with that, a lot of the really bad boys don’t want the added worry and risk factor of having to permanently conceal a weapon.
“If you are a focus of serious police attention it is always feasible someone is going to execute a search warrant on you. And the last thing you need is a Kalashnikov stuck down the back of the sofa.”
Earlier this month Home Secretary Theresa May said a new offence of supplying a firearm will be introduced to tackle those who hire out weapons.
Ms May said people supplying firearms are “as guilty” as those who use them to carry out crime. She wants the maximum sentence for the supply offence – which will apply in Scotland – to be life.
But our man said even this won’t deter the trade.
“It’s simple economics. These guys supply a demand. There will always be someone in Edinburgh with a stash of weapons, ready and willing to take a daily fee for their use.”
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