Belfast Telegraph

Divis Hoods: Teen tearaways who post snaps of themselves with swords and guns and boast of the misery they cause

By Deborah McAleese

They are tagged, under strict curfews and banned from entering parts of the city. The PSNI has stepped up patrols and officers are monitoring their movements.

But notorious west Belfast car crime gang the Divis Hoods have still threatened to cause chaos over Christmas.

Gang members, some as young as 16, have armed themselves with swords and what appears to be a replica firearm.

They have taken to social media to show off their weapons stash and taunt police about their crime sprees.

One gang member recently posted: "Can't wait for Crimbo and New Years. Lethal. Divis Hoods wreck the place... happens every year."

Another responded: "recka (sic) cop jeeps."

One of the gang's younger members, a 16-year-old who is currently on bail and living in the Dunmurry area, posted a photograph of a firearm on his Facebook account earlier this week.

The boy had recently been released from the Young Offenders' Centre on bail to appeal against a conviction for a number of violent attacks.

One December 9 he posted a photograph of himself on social media saying that he was going to court drunk.

Later that day he was sentenced to four months in jail and four months on probation for assaulting four people and threatening to kill them.

The judge told him that the combination of offences was so serious that he had no option but impose a custodial sentence.

The teen was released from the Young Offenders' Centre the following week on High Court bail after his legal team launched an appeal against conviction.

He has been ordered to keep a curfew between 8pm and 8am and is banned from drinking alcohol and taking prescription drugs.

The gang's self-styled leader, a 19-year-old who has been in and out of the Young Offenders' Centre for most of his teenage years, is currently on bail for a series of offences.

He has to wear a tag, is under curfew and must sign bail every day. However, he has taken to social media to boast about recent joyriding incidents with fellow gang members.

On Tuesday the teenager and another gang member - a schoolboy - used social media to discuss a video of a recent joyriding incident in the area that they had posted online.

He complained that the car was "dead as f***" with no power-steering.

His friend responded that there was "always anor (sic) one" and he replied: "You said it kid. Easy come easy go."

The Divis Hoods crime gang is responsible for car crime, burglaries, vandalism and thefts in the west Belfast area.

It is predominantly made up of teenage boys. However, children as young as eight and a number of teenage girls are also believed to be involved.

Three years ago a special police task force was set up to target the gang following a spate of terrifying carjackings across the city.

Operation Rusico involved up to 60 police officers from the Auto Crime Team as well as the PSNI helicopter.

The operation resulted in a decrease in crime in the area due to the arrest and imprisonment of several gang members.

However, the PSNI has been forced to launch a new operation following a fresh surge of car crime incidents.

Although the gang has a relatively small number of members - around 15 to 20 - they have been causing misery within the local area.

Footage they post on YouTube shows young boys joyriding in stolen cars through built-up residential areas in broad daylight and at night. Scores of teenagers line the roads to cheer the joyriders on.

"They might only be a small group but they are ruling the streets here. They dictate the terms. If they are walking down the road in the middle of the day and they see a lorry, they wouldn't think twice about raiding it," a local community worker said.

"They are off their heads on drink and drugs most of the time and are doing just whatever they want. You can't speak to their parents. Most of them did the same thing when they were younger and have no desire to do anything to stop them."

Divis Hoods: United effort to halt west Belfast gang threatening to 'wreck the place' 

The alarming rise in hijackings across Belfast

There has been a surge in car crime incidents across Belfast in recent weeks including:

  • A female driver was left shaken when a gang with knives threatened her before stealing her car. She was getting into a Peugeot 208 at Talbot Street when two men and a woman approached and hijacked the vehicle.
  • Two women had their car hijacked from a city centre car park by six men. The women were shopping in Belfast when they were pulled from their vehicle in Dunbar Link.
  • A man tried to get into a Vauxhall Corsa at North Queen Street as the motorist sat in traffic. His attempt failed because the car door was locked.
  • In the York Street area a man approached a red Seat car and tried to open the passenger side and rear doors of the vehicle, which were locked.
  • Two men pulled a woman from a Nissan Micra stopped at traffic lights on Divis Street. They made off in the car, which was found abandoned in Kilmore Close in the city.

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