The country’s oldest crime gangs are making a comeback and using sites like TikTok to share online videos of violent attacks.
Long-dormant youth gangs such as Glasgow’s Calton Tongs, Lanarkshire’s Skulls and Edinburgh’s Young Niddrie team have re-emerged on the streets and are using social media to spread their hate-fueled attacks and threats.
A Sunday Mail investigation found dozens of videos and pictures of young teenagers – some linked to gang names from the 70s and 80s – wearing balaclavas and showing off weapons.
Videos posted to Instagram, WhatsApp and TikTok showed sickening attacks on rival gang members and threats of violence, often accompanied by drill music – a dark and gritty form of hip-hop.
The Scottish Violence Reduction Unit (SVRU), as well as youth workers and former gang members, issued warnings about the rise of the teen gang culture that has emerged post-lockdown.
Will Linden, deputy director of the SVRU, set up in 2005 to tackle youth gangs, said: “Some of the names we are hearing again are the ones we saw before.
“Gang names can and do re-appear on places like online. Post-Covid, young people are looking to come together with their peers and some are making the mistake of thinking that’s with gangs.”
“It’s 13, 14 and 15-year-olds. They went into lockdown as children and have come out as teenagers.”
Social media platform TikTok began removing content last night after being approached by the Sunday Mail.
One video, believed to have been shared thousands of times on Facebook-owned WhatsApp, shows a brutal attack on a rival group in Glasgow.
Labeled a “riot an a hawf”, it shows three teenage boys chasing another youth through a train before catching up with him.
Knocking the boy to the ground they film themselves jumping up and down on his head while he lies helpless on the ground.
One can be heard shouting “yes” while another shouts “you are knocked out clean”.
Another WhatsApp video shows a brutal fight involving young girls and boys, understood to be near a school in the Glasgow area.
A victim, dressed in white and wearing a baseball cap, is punched to the ground before a group of half a dozen boys crowd around him kicking him in the head.
And on TikTok, a video shows balaclava-wearing gang members based in the Niddrie area of Edinburgh threatening their west-coast counterparts.
With thousands of views, the short film featuring drill music shows dozens of teenagers with captions saying they will “maul yous”.
Social media pages name-checked gangs including Young Niddrie Team, Young Clerry Jungle, Young Mental Oxgangs, Young
Pilton Derry and Young Mental Saughton – all based in Edinburgh’s most deprived areas.
In Glasgow, gangs including the Cranhill Fleeto and Castlemilk Young Team are also named in online videos.
One Lanarkshire-based youth worker said: “It’s as bad as I can remember. Some parts of Scotland have returned to the dark days where teenagers were scared to leave their schemes.
“Mostly, it’s being driven by Covid. Boredom because everything was shut.
“Now things have opened again, kids are getting out — and that’s not always good. I’ve heard of gangs names that haven’t been heard of since the 1970s and 1980s. The gangs some of these kids’ grandparents were in.”
The SVRU helped cripple Scotland’s gang culture more than a decade ago with violence plummeting to record lows.
Deputy director Will Linden warned that much of its success predates widespread use of social media, where minor slights can
now erupt into violent encounters on the street.
Linden said: “When we started we didn’t have the noise of social media to the same extent. The online world has been good for young people in a lot of ways during lockdown.
“But in other ways it’s helped to antagonize each other.
“The problem with the online world is previously when Johnny said something about Stevie, it would quickly disappear.
“But when its goes online, it never really goes away. Things that were allowed to pass before don’t now – there are constant reminders. And that is driving the violence.”
Colin MacFarlane, who was involved in Glasgow underworld in the 60s in the Gorbals area of the city and has written extensively about it, said some of the city’s most infamous gangs were making a comeback.
He said Glasgow gangs like The Calton Tongs – so feared that Strathclyde Police issued a press statement in 2011 to celebrate its demise – had reappeared.
He said: “I’ve heard reports that famous Glasgow gangs like The Tongs and The Cumbie, who I was in way back in the 1960s, have made a comeback.
“But it’s hard to tell how serious they are and whether it just people hijacking their grandparents’ stories for street credibility.”
In 2009, the SVRU named and shamed some of Scotland’s worst gangs, all of whom were based in the West of Scotland.
The roll of dishonor included the Cumbernauld Carbrain Young Fleeto, Bellshill Young Team, Cambuslang Halfway Fleeto, Glasgow Whitlawburn Techno Young Skull Team and Glasgow Shamrock.
Linden said: “Gang violence among young people has never disappeared, it’s not gone away. It’s nowhere near previous levels but we are concerned.”
A spokesman for WhatsApp said that as a private messaging service, it does not have access to the contents of people’s personal chats but it provides easy ways for users to block and report other accounts.
TikTok said: “Content that depicts gang culture in a way that promotes illegal criminal activities, incites violence, or contains credible threats of violence is not tolerated on our platform and we have removed the videos in question.”
A spokeswoman for Instagram added that it removes all graphic images or videos when they celebrate or glorify violence or the suffering of others, including animals.
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