Editor's Viewpoint: Society must act to drive out gang
Having at first ruled out any connection between the various car-jackings in Belfast in recent weeks, the police are now convinced that they are the work of one small gang of young tearaways from the Divis area in the west of the city.
Certainly the self-styled Divis Hoods gang seem to have the form for such criminal behaviour and their brazen joyriding in the area suggests that they are not too concerned who knows about them.
According to local residents, the gang have terrorised their community and anyone who has spoken out against them has suffered ongoing intimidation. Even threats of reprisals from dissident republicans appear to have little effect on the gang's activities. It is obvious that tackling these criminals is a multi-agency task. In another society it would probably be quite easy for police to move into the area, arrest the ringleaders and get convictions, but in Northern Ireland even fighting crime has to be done sensitively.
Social services, local community groups, even political parties all have a part to play in bringing these criminal activities to a halt. Certainly the community has an important role to play by providing the police with the necessary evidence or intelligence to apprehend the gang members. They must realise that effective policing is in their own interests, ridding them of a menace which is blighting their lives and causing panic through large parts of the city.
It is encouraging that a number of arrests have been made and one person charged, but it is also clear that the justice system is not deterring these criminals, whose activities have moved up a gear since one of their ringleaders was recently released from prison. The greatest reassurance to the public will come when those responsible for carjacking or other crimes are given sentences which will remove them from the street for a lengthy period and also act as a deterrent to younger people considering following their criminal ways.