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Last Updated: Friday, 10 February 2006, 13:42 GMT
Police launch anti-gang strategy
A former gang member at the launch of Operation Tag - Picture from Strathclyde Police
Former gang member James escaped when he moved home
An operation to tackle a gang culture that police say has "ignited community fears" is under way in Glasgow.

Operation Tag will target 63 gangs with 1,700 members - some as young as 12 - and arrest the hardcore while offering those on the periphery a way out.

Superintendent John Paisley said: "People feel intimidated, frightened and frustrated and want action."

Police said gang-related crime ranged from drinking in the street and vandalism to drug abuse and murder.

The operation will specifically target the south of the city.

Intelligence has identified hot spots where a police presence will be enhanced in coming weeks and months.

Gang members include both boys and girls, typically in their teens.

Violence is random and sporadic and often fuelled by excess alcohol and drugs
Supt John Paisley

Former gang member James said it was difficult to escape a gang once you became a member.

The 15-year-old said: "You just go out and whatever happens, happens.

"You get into fights, you get injured or you don't - it's one of those things.

"I was seven or eight when I joined, it was my decision.

"We hit windows, got drunk, fought, broke into places and got a criminal record.

"It's good the police are trying to do something.

"I walked out but your pals can turn on you."

James escaped when his mother and father split up and he moved from the area.

Tackle gangs 'robustly'

Uniformed and plain-clothed police officers will "identify and disrupt" gangs.

Officers will patrol parks and areas where gangs gather to drink and "disperse troublesome youths".

Supt Paisley, the officer in charge of the operation, said: "Youth disorder and anti-social behaviour is a trend in our community that has ignited the public's fear.

Police speak to Shawlands Academy pupils about gangs - Picture from Strathclyde Police
Officers will visit schools to talk about gang issues

"Operation Tag is designed to tackle these issues robustly and make a real difference in our communities.

"Those involved are loosely associated with each other and the violence is recreational with no purpose or gain.

"It is random and sporadic and often fuelled by excess alcohol and drugs."

A dedicated prosecutor will deal with Operation Tag cases.

Anne Currie, procurator fiscal for Glasgow south, said: "The fiscal service is working with police to ensure relevant information on the crime and the impact of offending on the local community are taken into account."

Information will be used when considering whether to oppose bail or seek curfew orders.

A 'scourge'

Glasgow City Council will also work on creating opportunities for gang members in outward bound schemes, training and employment with local businesses.

The operation was launched at Shawlands Academy.

Ken Goodwin, head teacher, said: "There are gang members in every school.

"We must never forget that the vast majority of our young citizens are effective contributors to our society."

Glasgow MSP Frank McAveety, who attended the launch, described gangs as a "scourge".

He added: "We are talking about young people's lives.

"The damaging effect of gang culture could result in a pathway to crime."

Last year, the initial phase of Operation Tag ran for six months.

In that time 500 people were arrested or reported for a range of crimes including abduction, mobbing and rioting and attempted murder.

More than 2,000 people were stopped and searched and hundreds of weapons confiscated.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Watch officers discuss the aim of the operation



SEE ALSO:
Gangs 'serious as sectarianism'
07 Feb 06 |  Scotland
Blair hears gang violence fears
03 Sep 05 |  Scotland
City curb on anti-social elements
10 Dec 04 |  Scotland
Young offenders 'face' victims
27 Aug 03 |  Scotland


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