Page last updated at 11:38 GMT, Tuesday, 8 April 2008 12:38 UK

Youths held after gang dawn raids

Officers lead away a suspect
Members of the gang taskforce led away handcuffed suspects

Police in East Ayrshire have arrested 17 youths in a series of dawn raids aimed at tackling gang violence.

The youngsters - who were aged between 16 and 18 - were arrested in Auchinleck and Drongan.

They were being held in police custody and were due to appear at Ayr Sheriff Court on Wednesday.

A warrant is outstanding for the arrest of one other youth. The operation was led by Strathclyde Police's new gang taskforce.

It was set up to try to reduce gang violence across the force area.

The head of the unit, Supt Bob Hamilton, said the raids were in connection with alleged gang violence which occurred in November last year.

Some of the weapons allegedly used in the incident were hockey sticks, golf clubs, metal bars and bicycle chains.

The raids in Ayrshire come after a crackdown in Glasgow's Drumchapel area last month, where officers used battering rams to smash their way into the homes of several men suspected of being members of local gangs.

'Small villages'

The raids in Ayrshire were more low key, with officers knocking on doors to apprehend the suspects.

Supt Hamilton said a different approach had been taken in Drongan and Auchinleck.

"These are small villages and we need to reassure parents that we're not there just to kick the doors in and arrest people," he said.

"If people have committed crimes we will take appropriate action but we're looking for the parents to be on side with us.

"We'll discuss the nature of the incidents with them and look for them to control the behaviour of individuals because we're well aware we can't do this job on our own."

Supt Hamilton said the police were monitoring the internet for any evidence of gang violence.

"These individuals use their own websites, where they put their names, faces and sometimes the crimes they're committing on the internet," he said.

"We will look at that and take intelligence from that."

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