'Divis Hoods gang behind carjack spree'
A west Belfast crime gang known as The Divis Hoods is believed to be behind the spate of terrifying car hijackings across the city.
The police officer in charge of hunting down the hijackers has admitted that the initial police response to the two-week crime wave could have been better, but insisted that major efforts are now under way to hunt them down.
Two teenagers were last night in police custody after being arrested yesterday afternoon in connection with the recent surge of attacks, mainly on female motorists.
The 18 and 19-year-old males were apprehended less than 24 hours after the PSNI announced that a special police task force is targeting the hijackers.
One of the main lines of police inquiry is that a gang of prolific offenders in west Belfast is behind a large number of the recent attacks.
The gang, called the Divis Hoods Liberation Army, has been responsible for car crime, burglaries, vandalism and thefts in the west of the city for several years.
Members, some as young as eight, have in the past been threatened by dissident republicans because of their criminality. Gang members film each other joyriding and post the videos on YouTube, with no fear of being caught.
It is believed they have now turned their attentions to hijackings and have been unafraid to strike in broad daylight.
Many of the cars that were hijacked since the start of January were discovered abandoned or burnt out in west Belfast.
Chief Superintendent Alan McCrum (below) said that police "have a very clear line of inquiry in relation to a particular gang in the Falls area".
Since January 3 there have been nine hijackings and three attempted hijackings in and around the city centre, just a few miles apart. In 10 of those instances the victims were women.
Chief Superintendent McCrum, the District Commander for Belfast, admitted that police needed to learn from their initial response to the hijackings. "I accept that there probably is some learning in terms of how we approach this particular type of crime," he said.
However, Mr McCrum insisted police are now clear on how they are going to tackle the problem and vowed to track down all those involved.
"We are going to ensure we make further arrests and hold those responsible to account. I am confident we will be making more arrests," he said.
Yesterday's arrests brings to three the total number of people apprehended for hijackings in Belfast over the past few weeks.
Earlier this month a 15-year-old male was charged with hijacking a car in the Rugby Road area of south Belfast on January 4.
Story so far
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. Members are now believed to be responsible for a number of hijackings across Belfast.