Men in black jackets and masks. Footage. Criminal gang in black plastic masks and leader in white mask on background of cloudy sky. Masked social criminal gang

In recent years, the UK has witnessed a troubling increase in groups identifying as gangs, exhibiting varying degrees of criminal behaviour. Media reports have spotlighted this trend nationwide, and Northumbria is no exception. In this region, urban street gangs, notably the Peer Crime Groups, have made their presence felt, altering the social and criminal landscape significantly.

The Shift in Newcastle

The situation in Newcastle began to shift dramatically in 2016. Working within a neighbourhood team, we observed the emergence of urban street gangs, particularly the Focus Sixers and TNS. These groups were involved in numerous violent incidents, with palpable animosity between them. Their influence extended beyond local boundaries, facilitated by connections through family and associates across the UK. This period marked the nascent stages of what we now recognise as county lines operations, with young people frequently travelling and disappearing for extended periods.

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The Role of Music and Social Media

The music scene has played a significant role in the evolution of these gangs. Members performed at events and produced professional music videos, often depicting their criminal activities. Social media emerged as a crucial platform for communication and coordination, with encrypted channels complicating law enforcement efforts. Gang members also engaged in reselling high-end clothing and utilising Bitcoin, thereby funding their operations. Popup parties, particularly through Airbnb, became common, providing valuable intelligence for the police.

Notable Incidents

Several significant incidents have underscored the escalating violence associated with these gangs:

  • February 2017: Frankie Cooper, a 22-year-old member of TNS, was stabbed in Newcastle. A 16-year-old was convicted of his manslaughter, highlighting the deadly rivalries between gangs.
  • August 2019: Peter Duncan, a middle-aged man, was fatally stabbed in Newcastle. An 18-year-old was convicted of the crime. Although Duncan was not a gang member, he was on the periphery of gang activities.
  • Other notable cases include the death of Nathaniel Wardle, along with recent violent incidents in Gateshead and Newcastle, demonstrating widespread weapon use.
Police on the streets of Newcastle Upon Tyne.

Operation Pecan

In response to the escalating violence, Operation Pecan was launched with a multifaceted approach:

  • Traditional Investigation: Focusing on key offenders through thorough investigations.
  • Proactive Enforcement and Disruption: Engaging in enforcement actions to disrupt gang activities.
  • Safeguarding: Partnering with local authorities, children’s services, and education providers to protect vulnerable individuals.

The police have ramped up hotspot patrols and work with disruption teams to target key areas and individuals. They emphasise traditional police actions alongside regular visits to known individuals to build relationships and gather community intelligence. A notable incident highlighting the need for increased patrols was the stabbing of a 15-year-old boy in Newcastle.

Mapping Gang Activities

Police efforts have revealed a complex structure of gang activities. A large umbrella gang with subdivisions controls various territories for drug dealing and other criminal enterprises. The fluid nature of these groups requires constant updates to intelligence. Phone data and social media play crucial roles in understanding gang dynamics, identifying members, hierarchical structures, and recruitment methods.

Strategic Partnerships and Community Engagement

The police employ a balanced approach, viewing individuals as both victims and offenders. While diversionary referrals are preferred, the severity of some cases necessitates criminal justice interventions. Police engage in strategic safeguarding meetings and collaborate with other regions and agencies to share insights and enhance practices.

Recent trends indicate an increase in established gangs, county lines models for drug trafficking, and violence related to debt enforcement. There is a concerning rise in the exploitation of vulnerable adults and the recruitment of young, previously unknown individuals. While most known gang members are male, the involvement of females in gangs is an emerging issue.


The evolving nature of gang activities in Northumbria presents significant challenges for law enforcement and the community. The police are addressing these challenges with enhanced intelligence, proactive enforcement, and strategic partnerships. By engaging with the community and employing a balanced approach, the police aim to mitigate gang-related violence and safeguard vulnerable individuals, striving for a safer and more secure Northumbria.

Siren light on roof of police car at street. Themes crime and emergency panoramic banner.

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The UK has witnessed a troubling increase in gangs, exhibiting varying degrees of criminal behaviour. Media reports have spotlighted this trend nationwide, and Northumbria is no exception. In this region, urban street gangs have made their presence felt, altering the social and criminal landscape significantly.

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