Belfast Telegraph

Revelling in their notoriety, Divis Hoods are a menace to society and a danger to themselves

A teenage Divis Hoods member brandishes a knife
A teenage Divis Hoods member brandishes a knife
Fellow Divis Hoods strike a similarly threatening pose

By Deborah McAleese

He is just 15 years of age but his future looks bleak.

Having joined notorious car crime gang the Divis Hoods, jail time and a criminal record is most likely inevitable.

On a Monday evening last month the teenager, his teenage friend and an older man were involved in a police chase across Belfast after a car was reported stolen in the Clifton Street area, north of the city.

Police spotted the stolen car in the Springfield Road area and gave chase.

Realising they could not outrun the officers, the gang put the car in reverse and smashed into the pursuing police vehicle, injuring two officers.

They drove off but were finally brought to a stop by officers from the Operational Support Team in Gortin Street.

The trio were arrested and charged with a range of criminal offences, including aggravated vehicle taking, burglary and theft.

Days later police received reports of another hijacking in the Victoria Gardens area of north Belfast.

A woman had just pulled up outside her home when a man armed with a Stanley knife ordered her to get out of her car.

The hijacker made off in the vehicle towards Cavehill. A short time later the car was spotted driving erratically in the Ross Road area, a favourite spot for joyriders.

Police gave chase and managed to block the car. Two teenagers, aged 17 and 19, were arrested at the scene.

Both males have since been charged with a number of offences including hijacking, aggravated vehicle taking, dangerous driving and driving while disqualified.

Despite the launch of numerous police operations to tackle the resurgent spates of hijacking, joyriding and related car crime, it is a problem that the PSNI still struggles to curb.

The fact that many of these young offenders see arrest and jail time as a badge of honour makes it particularly challenging for the authorities. They often take to social media to publicly boast of their crimes and goad police officers.

One persistent offender publicly boasted how serving time in the Young Offenders Centre was "wee buns" and ordered his friends to organise a party for him upon his release.

Another member of the Divis Hoods crime gang recently used social media to threaten named officers in the area.

Posting on a social media site dedicated to their crime sprees, he warned the officers that the Divis Hoods were "going to get use (sic) again". He threatened that the officers would be knocked out with a bottle over the head.

And over Christmas, gang members used the internet to arrange a number of joyriding incidents in the west Belfast area so that they could "wreck the place".

However, the PSNI increased patrols and joined forces with local community groups following the threats and Chief Constable George Hamilton said this led to "the quietest Christmas period in many years".

Mr Hamilton has said that the PSNI cannot tackle the Divis Hoods alone. He said that a multi-agency, early intervention process is required which focuses on those vulnerable to this type of offending.

A rehabilitative process is also required for those already involved to try and change offending patterns.

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