Belfast Telegraph

Belfast gripped by carjack fear as cabbie is beaten in latest theft

By Chris Kilpatrick

Brazen hijackers have carried out yet another car theft in Belfast - as concerns continue to grow over the police's ability to stop the thieves.

The latest incident happened in the St Peter's Close area of west Belfast when a taxi driver was struck with a baton.

It was the latest in a series of terrifying carjackings across the city in recent weeks.

The notorious so-called Divis Hoods Liberation Army are believed to be behind many if not all the attacks.

Politicians last night said the group had sparked fear not only in west Belfast but throughout the city. The public have been urged to help police catch those involved with the dangerous gang before somebody is killed.

The car, a grey Hyundai i40, was hijacked by two men armed with a baton and a suspected firearm shortly after 6pm on Monday.

The taxi was abandoned minutes later a short distance away after encountering a passing police patrol.

The two men ran off in the direction of the Falls Road after having struck the taxi driver on the shoulder with the baton.

PSNI Detective Constable Gareth Hussey: said: "We are seeking information about this incident and an incident which occurred in Northumberland Street at around 5.50pm when two men matching the descriptions of the hijackers were reported to have attacked a passing car with a baton and a firearm.

"Both were described as being around 30-years-old and were wearing dark clothing with hooded tops.

"No damage was caused to the car and there were no injuries reported."

The PSNI has just launched a new operation to tackle the crimewave.

SDLP councillor Tim Attwood said the Divis Hoods were responsible for tormenting their community.

"This is a generational problem," he said.

"Some grow up and leave and others take their place."

There were at least nine reported carjacking attempts last month in Belfast, several of them involving violence.

Background

A huge police clampdown on thieves in 2012 seemed to have largely stamped out the opportunist crimes, but a new spate of hijackings, mostly targeting vehicles of women and young people, has given rise to deep concern that another wave of attacks is gathering momentum.

There were at least nine reported carjacking attempts last month in Belfast. During several of the thefts the victims were violently attacked.

Policing Board member and DUP MLA Jonathan Craig said the police were facing "one of the most difficult crimes at all".

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