Aberdeen Yardies held in clampdown on crack gangs

DOZENS of Yardie gangsters have been arrested in Aberdeen as part of a clampdown on criminal gangs which are flooding Scotland with crack cocaine.

Detectives in the city revealed yesterday that 30 Jamaicans - believed to be members of notoriously violent, London-based Yardie gangs - have been detained in the past nine months.

Police say the criminals are being drawn to Aberdeen because of its wealth and its already well-developed drug dealing network which has been based on heroin.

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The alarming revelation comes in the wake of a warning by a senior officer in the Metropolitan Police that violent gangsters are expanding their operations throughout the UK.

Detective Chief Superintendent John Coles, the head of a unit targeting black-on-black crime, said the gangs posed the biggest potential threat to policing in the UK after terrorism.

In Aberdeen, the latest arrest came last week. An 18-year-old Jamaican-born man from London was apprehended by officers at the city’s railway station on Wednesday, allegedly with 36,000 worth of crack cocaine and diamorphine in his possession. The man has been charged with drugs offences.

Police fear the new wave of London-based criminals will clash with rival gangsters from the West Midlands, who have previously been the main suppliers of drugs to the north-east.

The competition between dealers for control of the city’s drug trade is already thought to have claimed one life - that of Kevin Nunes, 20, who was killed in Wolverhampton last September. It is believed that Nunes’ death was the result of a row over his drug-dealing activities in Aberdeen.

Detective Inspector Willie Findlay, the head of Grampian Drugs Squad, said the arrested Jamaicans were all illegal immigrants, thought to be drug mules supplying crack to dealers in targeted cities across the UK and working under the direction of around six major criminals from London and the West Midlands.

DI Findlay said: "If it can happen in Aberdeen, it can happen anywhere. I have been surprised that it has reached the level that it has in the time that it has. It seems to me the dealers look for towns where they can muscle in easily, not necessarily the ones where the biggest market might be."

Grampian police are now liaising with Scotland Yard and the National Criminal Intelligence Service to pinpoint the major criminals thought to be behind Aberdeen’s crack trade.

Crack cocaine was first found in Aberdeen in 1997, as criminal gangs who controlled prostitution in the city began to supply the drug in small quantities to prostitutes working the city’s harbour red light area.

A report published earlier this year showed that there were 12 crack users in the city in 1999. However, the latest figures show the number is now in excess of 400. According to police, 95% of Aberdeen’s 3,500 registered heroin addicts also use crack cocaine.

Findlay said the dealers were attracted by the prospects of large profits, as crack is sold in the city for 50 a rock, compared with 25 in London or Bristol.

He also revealed police intelligence which shows there are 243 suspected crack dealers in the city, which has a population of 240,000.

A fellow drug squad officer said the criminal gangs, predominantly black, recruited local white drug addicts to sell their drugs.

Across Scotland, the quantity of crack cocaine seized by police has soared from just 0.55lb in 1997 to 55lbs in 2001. While police forces in Glasgow and Edinburgh report occasional incidents involving suspected Yardie gangsters, the criminals are thought to be focusing on Aberdeen.

Earlier this year, the Scottish Executive revealed that of 34 raids in Scotland in 2000 where crack was found, 31 were in Grampian.

Findlay said the lack of indigenous organised crime in Aberdeen made it an appealing place for drugs barons to target.