A DECADE ago Cranhill was in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. The post-war housing scheme was in the midst of a drugs epidemic and had earned the nickname "Smack City".

Parents felt powerless against the dealers who traded on the streets. All they could do was warn their children not to pick up abandoned needles.

But when 13-year-old Allan Harper died of a heroin overdose and became Britain's youngest drugs victim the mood in Cranhill changed.

Allan's body was found in a maisonette in Bellrock Street. His shoulder had been gnawed off by the three bull terriers belonging to his mother's boyfriend.

At the boy's funeral the parish priest reminded the community that everyone bore a sense of responsibility because they had "washed their hands" of the problem. That remark hit home and Cranhill rebelled against the drug dealers.

Mothers Against Drugs, led by local councillor Gaille McCann, staged a 400-strong candle-lit procession in a bid to "reclaim" the area.

They held meetings - at which they were often "eyeballed" by drug dealers - and they thrust the community's problems on to the nation's front pages.

Today the grim maisonettes where Allan Harper died are gone and the area landscaped over. And, according to one community leader, Cranhill has cleaned up its act and is unrecognisable as the drug-ridden sink estate of the 1990s.

The scheme, sandwiched between Edinburgh Road and the M8, still has huge unemployment problems with around half the working age population on the dole.

Ellen McVey is the training and volunteer coordinator with Cranhill Community Project in Bellrock Road - only a stone's throw from where the maisonettes once stood.

The project picked up an award at this week's Evening Times Community Champions Awards.

She said: "There is a phenomenal difference in Cranhill now, a fantastic difference. A lot of money has been put into the place for regeneration.

"The people here are absolutely brilliant. They volunteer to take part in everything that's going on.

"I think people looking into Cranhill from the outside see it as notorious. It is nothing at all like that.

"We have great links with the community police nowadays, all the young people know them."

The 47-year-old, originally from Dennistoun, added: "I have always worked in the East End, so I don't think it's the rough tough place it's made out to be, the people have a good heart."

"I think it was fantastic that the people of this area decided 10 years ago that enough was enough.

"You just have to look at this project to see the results of that.

"Now I think it's a good place to live. There are people who have lived in Cranhill for 40 years and who have bought property here."

Cranhill has been the Glasgow community of choice for many African and Eastern European families who have been granted asylum.

Ms McVey said: "Everybody mixes so well. We have a lot of people who have been granted leave to remain and who choose to live in Cranhill."

She said the area no longer had so many problems with kids running wild.

"We genuinely don't hear about people being attacked and we hear nothing about racist abuse.

"I actually don't know of any gang around here which I know is very unusual, again we would hear about these things."

She has worked at the community project for 18 months.

"We have an average of 30 young people coming from all backgrounds so that is keeping them out of trouble.

"We have an arrangement with John Wheatley College where an English lecturer takes five sessions a week working with the asylum community.

"I believe we are getting there as a community. We have a good bit to do but I think we are getting better.

"The biggest problem here is unemployment - if we could solve that and get decent jobs it would help.

"The unemployment rate is around 50% and it impacts on their social life and their self esteem."

But she remains upbeat.

"It is not the big problem area that it's made out to be - not any more, it is a very different place nowadays." All-change means gang fights now a rare event Gangs have been targeted to reduce fights POLICING the East End has always been a major challenge - areas such as Easterhouse, Cranhill and Barrowfield have often been hotbeds of gang warfare. But, like the area itself, that image is slowly changing.

Superintendent David Marsh is based at London Road police station and is responsible for policing Bridgeton, Dalmarnock, Calton, Haghill, Dennistoun, Cranhill, Carntyne, Riddrie and Parkhead.

Crime figures have tumbled in recent years and recently a year went by without a single murder in the area. Mr Marsh says: "I don't think that has ever happened here before."

But he is realistic enough to admit the problems facing places like Cranhill will not disappear.

"Cranhill, and other areas like Calton and Shettleston, are areas of multiple deprivation with particular social issues - violent crime, drugs, alcohol and gang-related disorder," he adds.

"When I came here four and a half years ago there were gang fights every night.

"We have now identified the majority of gang members and have taken them away from that type of behaviour.

"CCTV has been a good tool for us because we have caught a lot of gang fights that way. Where a gang fight was a regular occurrence a few years ago now it is rare."

But the superintendent, a winner at this week's Glasgow Community Champions Awards, says problems still remain.

"Territorialism has been here for a long time and it is ingrained.

"We are chipping away at it.

"The development of social housing and private housing is changing the landscape and profile of the East End and the people coming into the area.

"A lot who are coming in here now will not tolerate the behaviour of the past.

"What they are being given now is quality housing. In the past they didn't have that and they are taking a pride in what they have now." Tower is local landmark

THE Cranhill skyline is dominated by the 98ft water tower at the corner of Stepps Road and Bellrock Street.

It was one of several huge elevated storage tanks built to provide high-volume, high-pressure storage for the homes on the housing estate.

The tower in Cranhill was unique in that it had a square tank as opposed to the cylindrical ones at Garthamlock and elsewhere.

In the late 1990s the tower was painted white and illuminated at night so it could be seen for miles around.

Residents hoped the lighting project would provide a beacon of hope for the area, which was beset by drugs problems.