A TEENAGE gang running riot in Glasgow’s East End has been using online social media app Snapchat to corner their targets.

A group of around 12 youths, headed by two 14-year-old ringleaders, has left a trail of around 30 victims in its wake.

Insiders claim anyone trying to leave the Haghill gang is branded with cigarette burns to the face dubbed “smilies”.

The group, who one local said operates like “a pack of hyenas”, find their victim’s using the social media app – which allows users to track other users using ‘Snapmap’ services accurate enough to reveal addresses.

They then track them down and attack.

Police said, as well as fellow teenagers, the group chooses its victims indiscriminately - older people, men, women, children and even a pregnant woman have all been targeted.

The ringleaders – who have been likened to gangsters – have encouraged a band of other young people to join them.

They have, it is alleged, been responsible for vandalism, house breakings, drug offences and anti-social behaviour.

Their actions escalated last year to include multiple violent attacks and a stabbing.

Now, however, authorities said they are finally gaining control of the situation and returning Haghill to being a safe place to live.

John Gormlie, Area Inspector for Calton, Dennistoun & East Centre Wards, was behind a massive crackdown in the area.

But he said police were only able to swoop on the teenage terrors thanks to the efforts of Milnbank Housing Association.

Joe Scott, Housing Services Manager, said bosses had been at the end of their tether with complaints from residents.

He said: “This is now at the end of a frustrating period for us.

“We didn’t want to bring the public’s notice to this until we had made some real strides in improving the situation.

“We have been dealing with what I can only describe as a gang. I never thought in my days of housing I would be using the word gang but there is no other word for it.

“It has taken a lot of work and a lot of patience but we believe the situation is turning around now.

“We feared they were going to kill somebody or be killed.”

Housing bosses said they have known one of the gang members since the age of five and have watched his behaviour escalate over the years.

After taking legal action, the housing association was able to evict the family.

But the move failed when the family took on a private let in the area.

Local councillor Elaine McDougall said her surgery was filled with terrified locals coming to ask for support.

The area had been subject to a dispersal order, a rarely-used anti-social behaviour power.

She said: “My constituents were very, very worried about the situation. I have heard some terrible stories.

“We took the steps to have a dispersal order put in place but even that failed to make enough of a difference.

“It is to their great credit that Milnbank Housing Association continued to work to deal with the issues - it is really thanks to their perseverance that the situation is turning around.”

The Evening Times was made aware of one incident where a man who had previously been stabbed by a member of the gang threatened some of the youths with a baseball bat as they hung around outside his home.

He was given 18 months in prison while the boy who stabbed him went without punishment.

A pregnant woman was targeted at random by the gang and physically attacked.

They have carried out racially-motivated attacks and older family members have been known to join in during street assaults.

During an extended crackdown in the area, Mr Gormlie arranged for increased police resources for Haghill. He said: “The issue we were faced with was a group of young people who had formed a gang and were systematically targeting women and children, carrying out racially motivated attacks, vandalism, even an attack on a pregnant woman in the street. In my time in the police, this is the worst I have seen.

“We were struggling to contain this as there is only so much you can do when it is children involved.

“However, once the behaviour escalated to a certain point and the Procurator Fiscal stepped in, we were able to take steps and stop the potency of the group. In the past six months a much more positive image has emerged for Haghill.”

COPS now say drug offences, serious assaults, vandalism and anti-social behaviour are all down in the area in the past six months.

Some of the worst offenders are now wearing tags and others have been engaging with social work to turn their lives around.

Mr Scott said: “This gang caused mayhem and the victims have to have some protection.

“I believe the system has let these young people down.

“When a family life and when behaviour breaks down as badly as it has in this case, there must have been something that could have been done along the way to circumnavigate it.

“It seems that the system was not able to do anything until their behaviour had escalated to a dangerous level. The community has been let down and the boys have been let down.”

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council’s social work department said it was not possible to comment on individual cases.

He added: “We have a statutory responsibility to respond to children at risk of harm.

“We also work closely with a wide range of partners such as police, education and housing to ensure children are safe and communities are protected.

“The city’s strategy for dealing with youth offending targets resources on the most vulnerable children to help steer them away from offending behaviour.

“We work with families in the round to address the issues that help to drive youth offending and it is an approach that has worked over the past decade with youth offending being reduced significantly in that time.”

Police and housing bosses now believe the area is on the up and are hoping measures currently in place will help keep gang violence in check.

Ms McDougall added: “This has been a significant challenge for us but we have managed to persevere and come out the other side, although this could all change in the future.

“We are in a much, much better place.

“People used to come and say, ‘I don’t want to live in Haghill,’ but now they are not.

“The area is unrecognisableand we can’t allow the behaviour of a few individuals to get in the way.”

How cops tackle gang violence...

IN response to gang violence in Haghill cops flooded the area with extra resources.

And Milnbank Housing Association also stepped up to protect the area.
Area Inspector John Gormlie had additional cops on the beat in Haghill and working on crimes in the area.

Milnbank bosses also paid for extra police time to cover the area. The housing association spends around £80,000 a year on CCTV and is about to double the number of CCTV cameras in the community to 100.

It also pays for special hand-held devices for cops, which allows officers on the beat to watch CCTV live.

Milnbank’s cameras helped cops gather the evidence they needed to deal with gang activity.

Multi-agency meetings were organised with Community Safety Glasgow and social work, among others, to work out what could be done for the community.

Police have been holding meetings with local people in Milnbank HA offices and the Milnbank Community Café every week.

In the coming weeks police will be going door-to-door in affected streets to carry out public reassurance visits.