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Police clamp down on east Belfast gangs as violent teens terrorise residents

By Deborah McAleese

Published 04/06/2015

Police are bracing themselves for further outbreaks of violence as gangs of teenagers terrorise residents in east Belfast
Police are bracing themselves for further outbreaks of violence as gangs of teenagers terrorise residents in east Belfast

Police are bracing themselves for further outbreaks of violence as gangs of teenagers terrorise residents in east Belfast.

Petrol bombs, paint bombs and other missiles have been thrown at officers trying to disperse crowds of youths gathering nightly at notorious interfaces.

Police say many of the youths are teenage girls. One 15-year-old girl was arrested for assault following a recent incident. The teenagers, many from outside the city, have been using social media to organise gatherings, which have quickly escalated from anti-social incidents into violence.

Three petrol bombs and a number of stones were thrown and a house attacked with paint bombs in the area on Tuesday night.

Earlier in the week, officers trying to move crowds away were attacked with paint bombs.

The PSNI yesterday vowed to clamp down on the gangs and their "anti-social" activities.

Chief Inspector David Moore said that officers "have been engaging with the youths and encouraging them to move away from the interface areas where incidents very often escalate".

"I would urge parents to make sure they know where their children are and what they are doing."

Police intend to step up patrols in problem areas. Officers will also be visiting a number of the youths' parents in the coming days.

East Belfast PUP councillor John Kyle said what started out as "low grade anti-social behaviour" is becoming "more troublesome."

Dr Jonny Byrne, lecturer in criminology at the University of Ulster, said the incidents "only serve to increase speculation that violence over the coming months is inevitable". But he added: "That doesn't have to be case.

"Exercising strong community leadership, with equally strong political support, and reinforcing the idea that violence benefits no one, will go a long away to ensuring a peaceful summer."

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