Balkan Crime Gang Fears
Byline: David Barrett
An international conference is being staged in London today to tackle the growing threat posed across Europe by Balkan crime gangs. Eastern Europe has become the main focus for crimimal enterprises worth millions of pounds in Britain alone, including drug smuggling, prostitution and illegal immigration.
Representatives from 57 countries and organisations are due to attend the one-day conference organised by the British Government in an effort to agree new strategies to tackle the gangs.
Most people from the Balkans working in the UK's crime underworld are ethnic Albanian men in their 20s or 30s who are 'predisposed to using extreme violence', Whitehall sources said.
Some may have arrived in the UK claiming asylum, they said, and the potential threat to law and order in Britain was 'very significant'.
'Organised crime in the Balkans isn't just a problem for the Balkans, it's a problem for us too,' said one source.
'Most of the organised crime threats we face have a serious Balkans dimension - drug trafficking, illegal immigration, trafficking of women for prostitution, cigarette smuggling.'
Another said: 'The speed with which ethnic Albanian crime groups have been able to take over aspects of the drugs market, particularly heroin, in other parts of Europe through the use of extreme violence is something which clearly worries us.
'If you look at what has happened in some of those countries, what has preceded the rise in organised ethnic Albanian crime has been an increase in low-level crime by people from that region. 'There are some signs in the UK that we are now seeing of a rise in low-level crime such as shoplifting, assaults and robberies, particularly in metropolitan areas. …