FIVE serious and organised crime gangs are operating in Ayrshire, police have warned.

Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said the dangerous criminals were a “clear threat” to pub trade and the “legitimate economy” in Ayrshire.

In a report to South Ayrshire Council’s licensing board, he said crooks launder money through local firms.

And detective Chief Inspector Alan Sommerville, Ayrshire CID said the police “closely monitor” their activity.

The illegal empires span across the whole of Ayrshire.

The report submitted to council said: “At this current time there are five serious and organised crime groups being managed by Ayrshire Division with some of these groups having a known interest in a business requiring some form of licence to operate.”

Explaining police tactics used to target the sophisticated criminality, the report said: “Officers in South Ayrshire continue to carry out targeted premises visits to ensure that all licence conditions are being complied with.”

Detecive Chief Inspector Sommerville said: “Those involved in serious and organised crime believe they can operate under the radar without fear of being caught. They believe they are above the law, but that is not the case. In Ayrshire, we closely monitor any activity which we believe is linked to serious and organised crime and we work hard to disrupt and dismantle these groups.”

He added: “We liaise closely with partners and other law enforcement agencies sharing intelligence and information in our efforts to target and identify those involved. In the last year we have worked with all three local authorities in Ayrshire and Trading Standards.”

The number of criminal groups in Ayrshire has plunged from nine in 2016 but police did not confirm why the numbers have changed when asked.

Detective Chief Inspector Sommerville added: “Information we receive from the public and the local community is vital. “With the continued support and co-operation we will continue to disrupt and detect those involved.”