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Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Police swoop to arrest thugs as young as 13 after brutal gang battle involving knives & baseball bats

14:51 |

TEENS linked to a savage gang battle were rounded up by police in early morning raids yesterday. A 13-year-old boy was among those arrested over the face-off which saw dozens of teens slashed, stabbed and beaten with clubs. Onlookers were shocked at the ferocity of the violence, which put three youths in hospital with knife wounds. Police confessed they were surprised no one was killed. Chief Inspector Craig Ritchie said: “In terms of the injuries, this was one of the worst gang incidents we have seen. “There is no doubt that when people get involved in this type of serious activity there are potentially fatal consequences.” Yesterday, officers swooped to arrest four key suspects. The 13-year-old will appear in court today along with three other boys – two aged 17 and a 16-year-old. The police raids were the culmination of an intelligence gathering operation that swung into action following the bloody battle in Cambuslang, near Glasgow, two weeks ago. In a scene similar to the brutal movie Neds, rival gang members fought it out on a disused railway bridge that spans the dividing line between their supposed “territories”. They set about each other with knives, baseball bats and golf clubs. The fight was between 30 members of the Carmyle Tahiti and the Westburn Toi. When it was over, dozens retreated with cuts and bruises while three boys – aged 15, 16 and 17 – had to be taken to hospital with stab wounds. The battle left the boys’ neighbourhoods reeling. It was not caught on CCTV but tip-offs from the weary and disgusted locals led to the arrests. The Record yesterday joined Strathclyde Police on one of the four co-ordinated swoops. Our day began at Rutherglen Police Office with a 7am briefing led by Detective Sergeant Alan Bankier. He told local officers and cops from the force’s Gangs Taskforce they would be split into four teams, one for each suspect. They were also told the swoops were “phase one of the operation”. We made the three-mile trip to Inzievar Terrace, Carmyle, in a police minibus. Shortly before 7.30am, we watched Bankier knock a suspect’s door, while two officers stood guard at the rear of the ground-floor flat in case the teenager tried to escape. The door was answered within seconds by a male relative of the suspect and officers went inside. Four minutes later, they emerged with the handcuffed 16-year-old suspect. As the teenager was led away, he attempted to cover his face with a T-shirt. A female then appeared at the door, with her face concealed by a dressing gown hood, and watched as he was led to an unmarked car. A police search team remained at the house in a bid to recover any weapons. At the same time, cops made arrests at addresses in Park Road, Cross Street and Hillcress Road, all Carmyle. Back at the police office, we were told a 13-year-old-boy and two 17-year-olds had also been arrested. The 13-year-old was released on an undertaking but the three youths were remanded in custody. All four are expected to appear before Glasgow Sheriff Court today. It will be up to the procurator fiscal to decide what charges they face. Ritchie said the delay of more than two weeks between the incident and the arrests meant the culprits possibly thought they had got away with it. And officers expect to make further arrests in the coming weeks. Ritchie added: “This incident was part of wider, ongoing territorial issues. “It is vital the public in Westburn and Carmyle are reassured that we will not tolerate it. “This level of violence and disorder is not acceptable and it will be dealt with robustly. “I am hopeful that the arrests we made today will send out a very strong message. “If you are involved in this type of activity then we are coming after you.” Police patrols have been increased in the area, especially at weekends when gang fights traditionally kickoff. Top cop Ritchie said: “Law-abiding, decent members of the community should not be expected to live amongst violence and disorder of this nature. “They have been upset by it. We gave them plenty of reassurance at the time and they have been reassured by the number of police officers down there since then.There have been no further issues.” He also said the force are working with partners, including council officials, in a bid to change offender behaviour. Bankier described the original incident as “nasty”. He said: “The severity of the injuries make it one of the most serious gang-related incidents I have ever dealt with. “We have got to thank members of the public who offered their assistance. This is a case of the local community saying, ‘We are not putting up with this’.” Many of the gang clashes which plague communities are organised via social networking sites, such as Facebook and MSN. But cops believe the violence that erupted outside Lalli’s Food Market on Westburn Road around 8pm on Friday, April 27, was spontaneous. Ritchie said: “Nothing happened to spark it and we had no information it was going to happen. This is historical and has been going on for many years, “In this incident youths from Carmyle came over to fight with youths from Westburn.” Police said the three stab victims, who were taken to Hairmyres Hospital in East Kilbride, were aged 15, 16 and 17. The 16-year-old was treated and kept in overnight. The others were released a few days later. Two of the injured gang members were from Carmyle and one was from Westburn. Two sustained multiple stab wounds while the third was knifed once. In 2008, the Centre for Social Justice warned there were 170 gangs in Glasgow – the same as London, which has six times the population. Police do not know how many individuals are linked to each gang. Gangs have been a problem in Glasgow for decades and are largely responsible for what Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has described as Scotland’s “booze and blades culture”. And by choosing to run with a gang many teenagers are following in the footsteps of their fathers and grandfathers. Breaking that cycle against a backdrop of deprivation and high unemployment remains a massive challenge for law enforcement. Last year, Scotland’s Violence Reduction Unit said an operation targeting gangs in the city had brought about a significant drop in violence. They claimed the Community Initiative to Reduce Violence had resulted in a 50 per cent reduction in violent offending by the 400 gang members who signed up. And even among gang members who refused to participate, data indicated a 25 per cent fall in the number of offences committed. The project is based on Boston’s Operation Ceasefire. In Carmyle, one landmark has become a major flashpoint. Ritchie said: “This happens in other areas, however, it is particularly bad in Westburn and Carmyle because there is a railway bridge which gives youths from Westburn and Carmyle access to each other “They are determined, determined to fight each other.”

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