Belfast Telegraph

Divis Hoods: Gang of thugs behind carjack spree issue public threat to three police officers

By Deborah McAleese

A notorious gang of car criminals have publicly threatened three PSNI officers as police attempt to crack down on hijackers and joyriders across Belfast.

The west Belfast gang - known as the Divis Hoods - posted the threat against three named police officers on a social media site they set up to share photographs and video footage of their crime sprees.

On the site one of the members warned the officers that the Divis Hoods were "going to get use (sic) again".

He threatened that they would be knocked out with a bottle over the head in the same way the gang "got" another man.

Despite several gang members having recently been jailed in Hydebank Young Offenders' Centre, others used social media to boast that they would continue "wrecking the joint".

The threats were posted just days before a taxi driver was hijacked at knifepoint in the west of the city, where the Divis Hoods mainly operate from.

Police said that two young males went to a taxi office on the Falls Road at 5.20am yesterday and got a taxi to Lower Cupar Street, where they then threatened the cabbie with knives.

The driver got out of the car and the two hijackers made off in it. It was later found abandoned in the St Peter's Court.

A sum of cash and a mobile phone had been taken.

Sinn Fein MLA for the area Fra McCann said residents were fed up with the gang taking over the streets.

"A lot of good work has been done in the area to stop hijackings, car thefts and joyriding incidents. A number of key people were recently arrested so I hope that this will mean a quieter life for those living in the area," Mr McCann said.

He added: "We don't want these malcontents in the area. They have nothing to offer and just continue to upset this community."

The Divis Hoods are notorious for hijacking and stealing vehicles across the greater Belfast area, which they joyride until they crash or run out of petrol. Cars are then abandoned, smashed up or burnt out in the west of the city. Over the past six years there have been six different police operations aimed at tackling the problem.

The PSNI's area commander for west Belfast, Chief Inspector Anthony McNally, recently told the Belfast Telegraph: "The fact they are still there means there does need to be a collective reinvigoration and refocus on car crime in the Divis area. There is still a difficulty there, and understandable frustrations within the community."

He added: "We are now dealing with kids of parents and younger brothers who are still getting involved in this, so there is very much that need for a long-term approach."

In November the PSNI launched a new drive - Operation Galleas - to crack down on a rise in carjackings and related car crime across the city.

Last year there were more than 2,200 car thefts or related car crimes in Belfast - more than 40 a week. Around 80 of those crimes were hijackings.

So far this week there have been at least four reported hijackings in Belfast, including the attack on the taxi driver.

On Monday a female motorist was attacked by two carjackers, one armed with a hammer, at the junction of the Antrim Road and Chichester Road. As she tried to run away her attackers gave chase and took her car keys before making off in the vehicle.

Two cars were hijacked over the weekend, one in west Belfast and the other in the north of the city.

Background

The Divis Hoods are a gang of prolific offenders responsible for much of the criminality in west Belfast. Gang members, some as young as eight, have in the past been threatened by dissident republicans because of their involvement in crime across the city. The gang films members joyriding and posts the videos on YouTube and other social media sites. Members are also believed to be responsible for a number of hijackings across Belfast.

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