A convenience store in the middle of a Bristol neighbourhood has been accused of acting as a hub for organised crime across the city.
According to local reports, Speedwell Mini Market was overtaken by drug dealers to ply their trade, “preying on vulnerable children to do their dirty work”.
Cannabis were being sold disguised in fake Skittles and Jelly Tots sweets packets, which officers found pre-printed ready to be sealed, alongside mobile SIM cards while illicit Viagra for sale was behind the counter, local reports stated citing police’s statement to Bristol City Council licensing sub-committee.
There had been a huge increase in reports of suspicious activity at the shop over the last 18 months, with more than 100 calls from the public, plus intelligence from sources, Bristol Live reported.
“We have significant concerns related to the premises. If action is not taken, there is a risk of serious harm or exploitation taking place,” Inspector Kris Harris told the council members.
Harris further added that the premises licence holder, Mohammed Arsan Hussein, had been absent from the business for some time.
“He has effectively lost control of the premises and we believe the premises are being run by an organised crime group, these members not being the premises licence holder or the designated premises supervisor,” he said.
Hussein told the panel he was “shocked” and “horrified” that the shop had become a base for criminals and that his family had run it for years before his father leased it out in 2017, since when he had assumed he had nothing to do with it.
The premises also was not operating like the shop it appeared to be – it had little on the shelves, no backroom stock or staff rota and its hours were “erratic”, usually not opening until late morning, local reports said.
Beat manager PC Clare Heard added that people often loitered outside the property intimidating residents and being “hostile, verbally abusive and aggressive” to police.
“This place was being used as a hub to facilitate criminal activity,” PC Heard said.
Police licensing officer Louise Mowbray told the City Hall hearing that suspected offences included cannabis cultivation, supply of cocaine, sale of alcohol to children and exploitation of youngsters.
The hearing was told the shop was currently closed.