Pubs facing an increase in organised crime activity can help tackle the problem through intelligence sharing within a local Pubwatch.

Dan Davies Rockpoint Leisure

That’s the view of Dan Davies (pictured above), chief executive of Rockport Leisure and current chairman of the Institute of Licensing, who was addressing the National Pubwatch Conference in Sheffield. He said that organised crime groups and gang activity is a problem faced by the licensed trade across the country. 

He said: “We have been 15 to 20 years behind some of the American gang culture. There have always been gangs in the UK, but what we have seen across the last number of years is a rise in a more organised gang activity.

“We have also seen a massive rise in knife crime, and again this is not people carrying around a pen knife. These are often machetes and zombie knifes, and things like this.”

He highlighted issues that have contributed to this rise, including urban planning, where businesses and high streets have ‘failed’ and been replaced with housing. 

“If you have a place where people just live, and they don’t work and don’t socialise there, they become displaced,” he added. 

“It can often bring friction and a spiral downwards. People just want jobs and opportunities. All of these things, as well as the economic climate, are the ‘tinder box’ for more gang activity.” 

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He said that part of the problem is that youths want a sense of direction and belonging, which see many join gangs. But he used this need to belong to make the young people part of the regeneration of New Brighton, where he is working.

“We have been charting the activities they have been doing over the last six years and you can really see if they are given opportunities and given the right investment in time and role models, they can take the right path,” he said. 

“They commit crimes, but they don’t understand the knock-on effect that can have to themselves, to their families, or to any victims and their families as well. This is something that is an important topic and it needs to be top of the agenda moving forward.  We need to work together and find the best practice.”

Dan worked with Inspector Alan McKeon, of Merseyside Police, who was a community inspector dealing with organised crime groups in the Wirral. “My view is that a good licensee is worth their weight in gold. We talk prevention. There is nothing better than to have a licensee on board,” he said. 

He stressed that licensees need support to deal with these organised crime groups, some of whom want to drink in their pubs and licensed premises. Insp McKeon said that it is crucial for licensees and pubs to share intelligence so incidents can be avoided.  

He highlighted the murder of innocent victim beautician Elle Edwards, who died after being shot in the cross-fire of an organised crime attack at a pub in Wallasey Village on Christmas Eve in 2022. The organised crime group had decided to frequent the premises, which was not seen by the police as a pub with any issues. 

“I will keep saying it. If they were part of a scheme like Pubwatch that information would have been shared and would have got to us,” he added.