Soho, located in the heart of London, has always captured attention with its glamorous reputation and intriguing connection to local crime. As one of the most vibrant areas in the city, Soho has often been associated with nightclubs, casinos, and a shadowy criminal underworld. In this article, we will delve into the fascinating history of Soho’s crime, shedding light on the figures who have dominated its criminal landscape over the years.
The Days of the Sabini Brothers and the Rise of Billy Hill
In the early 20th century, Soho’s criminal activities were under the control of the notorious Sabini brothers, an Italian family hailing from Farringdon. They established a strong grip on the neighborhood, orchestrating various illegal operations. However, their reign came to an abrupt halt during World War II when they were interned as unwanted aliens, creating an opening for new criminal figures to emerge.
One such figure was Billy Hill, who swiftly rose to prominence in Soho’s crime scene after the Sabini brothers’ internment. Hill gained notoriety for his expertise in safe-deposit box burglary, theft, robbery, and illegal gambling. In 1955, he published his autobiography titled “Boss of Britain’s Underworld,” boldly declaring himself as the “undisputed king of Soho.” Hill’s enigmatic persona and criminal exploits only intensified the allure surrounding the neighborhood.
Jack Spot: The Notorious Jewish Gangster
While Billy Hill held sway over Soho, he encountered a formidable rival in the form of Jack Spot. Spot, a well-known Jewish gangster, positioned himself as the go-to figure in times of trouble within the neighborhood. With his impeccably tailored suit, fedora hat, and crombie coat, he operated illegal gambling establishments and ran protection rackets. Despite his endeavors, Spot never attained the same level of fame as Hill, especially after a failed bullion heist at London airport in 1956.
The Failed Raid and Its Aftermath
In 1956, a brutal attack orchestrated by Jack Spot’s gang, which included a young Frankie Fraser (later known as “Mad” Frankie Fraser, one of the longest-serving London gangsters of the 20th and early 21st century), targeted Billy Hill. This event marked a turning point in the rivalry between the two criminal figures. Fraser received a seven-year prison sentence for his involvement in the attack. The incident highlighted the escalating tensions and power struggles within Soho’s criminal underworld.
The Era of the Kray Twins
Moving into the 1960s, Soho experienced a significant shift in power as the notorious Kray twins, Ron and Reg, dominated the neighborhood. The twins established their stronghold by operating a multitude of clubs and engaging in various illegal activities. Their influential presence left an indelible mark on Soho’s crime landscape during this period, making them the central figures in the criminal underworld.
Contemporary Criminal Gangs
In recent decades, Soho’s criminal activities have seen a shift, with the main criminal organizations now being associated with the Chinese Triads and Albanian gangs. These groups have presented new challenges for law enforcement agencies striving to combat crime in the neighborhood. While the statistics may reveal a higher crime rate in Soho compared to the rest of London, it is important to note that this does not necessarily translate to a greater level of danger. The heightened crime rate can be attributed to the bustling nature of the area, where incidents like theft of documents and wallets are more common due to the larger number of tourists and visitors passing through. These individuals are more likely to report such incidents to the police for insurance purposes or to recover their travel documents for their journey back home.
Soho in London has a fascinating history intricately woven with both glamour and crime. From the days of the Sabini brothers to the rise of Billy Hill and the era of the Kray twins, Soho has been a backdrop for captivating tales of criminal exploits. As the dynamics of the neighborhood continue to evolve, Soho remains an iconic area that captures the imagination of both locals and visitors alike.