Six of country's most-feared gangs operating in Lothians

SIX of Scotland's most dangerous crime gangs are operating in the Lothians, police chiefs have revealed.

A report by the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency (SCDEA) said there were a total of 367 serious organised crime gangs across Scotland, numbering more than 4,000 individuals.

It said 35 of the gangs were active in the Lothian & Borders police force area.

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Six of these were included in the top 20 gangs judged to pose the biggest threat.

Police said the figures underlined the fact that serious organised crime was not a problem confined to the west of Scotland.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill announced funding of 4 million over the next two years to boost staff at the SCDEA by 25 per cent with the creation of 80 new posts, including more covert officers, e-crime specialists and financial investigators.

Most of the gangs are involved in multiple types of crime, with nine out of ten involved in drugs and over half the groups having access to firearms.

Last year, the Evening News revealed police fears that some of Glasgow's most notorious gangsters wanted to use private hire car firms, tanning salons, security businesses and the sex industry in Edinburgh as "fronts" for drug dealing and money laundering.

In April, three members of a gang based in the south-east of the city were jailed for a total of 27 years and 11 months.

Gang leader Sean McGovern was given 17 years after blasting a shotgun at the Gauntlet Bar in Broomhouse as part of a bitter feud with a rival dealer.

His two co-accused, Terry Scott and Darren Elliot, were each imprisoned for five years and seven months. The trio were part of a ten-strong gang targeted by Operation Nuclear, a blitz which also recovered 323,500 of heroin and cocaine.

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Unveiling the latest information about the extent of the gangs, Mr MacAskill said organised crime damaged public safety, the economy and jobs.

He said: "We need a co-ordinated approach to ensure the whole country stands up against it – on the streets, within our communities, in civic society, and in the wider economy.

"For the first time we now have a national strategy to tackle serious organised crime that goes beyond law enforcement.

"We know more about who they are, who they work with and what they are doing.

"Organised criminals are driven by their own greed and their desire for power and influence.

"However, they cannot and will not be allowed to spread their criminal networks."