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Page last updated at 07:06 GMT, Tuesday, 27 January 2009
Police tackle internet knife gangs
By Dan Whitworth
Newsbeat technology reporter, Glasgow

Police officers
Two police officers look for pictures of knives

Hundreds of weapons have been taken off the streets of Glasgow six months after police started using the web to crack down on gang violence.

Young trainee officers at Strathclyde Police search social networking sites for pictures of people posing with weapons, mainly knives.

Constable Holly McGee and Cadet Fraser Reed, both 18, carry out the work.

"We're looking for anyone who is brandishing offensive weapons or blades," Holly told Newsbeat.

"We take the date, the time, detail of what's in the photograph, [then] a copy of the photograph is printed out and thereafter it's all sent to the gangs task force unit."

That's when more experienced officers in the Violence Reduction Unit at Strathclyde Police get involved.

'The law's been broken'

The man in charge of this, Superintendent Bob Hamilton, says there are two ways of dealing with people once they've been tracked down.

If they were posing in a public place, like on the street or a park, the law has been broken and they'll be arrested.

Even when pictures are taken in private, though, which isn't technically breaking the law, he says the weapons are so dangerous his officers pay a visit to the people involved.

We have large kitchen knives, axes, samurai swords, baseball bats, a huge number and different type of weapons
Superintendent Bob Hamilton

"We show the parents their pictures," he explained, "recover the weapons and make sure they know that behaviour is unacceptable.

"We have large kitchen knives, axes, samurai swords, baseball bats, a huge number and different type of weapons - in simple terms weapons that can kill."

Superintendent Hamilton says Operation Access has been a complete success.

"We've questioned more than 400 people, most of them teenagers, as part of it and it's worked so well it will carry on indefinitely," he said.

Other forces from across the UK have also been in touch about the possibility of setting up similar operations.

Social networking sites Facebook and Bebo both say they're committed to improving safety for their members as well as helping cut crime.

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