Belfast Telegraph

Car break-ins on the rise

By Brian Lovett and Pauline Reynolds

Car break-ins in south Belfast have risen by a massive 50 percent in the period between April and December 2009, latest police figures reveal.

However, domestic burglaries have fallen, dropping by almost 17 percent between April 2009 and February 2010.

These latest statistics were disclosed during the latest public meeting of the south Belfast sub group of the District Policing Partnership (DPP) on Tuesday evening.

Police revealed that the number of thefts from vehicles in the area shot up from 399 in the 2008/2009 period to 595 in 2009 period — a 49.1 percent rise.

And they said the rise was due in part to “credit-crunch crimes” by opportunist thieves who are targeting satellite navigation systems, portable music players and laptop computers which are easily visible in the vehicles.

The PSNI now plan to focus their attention on tackling such criminal activity through a number of new operations. One is to deploy resources in “hot-spot” areas renowned for theft, such as the Lisburn Road and University areas.

South Belfast MLA Anna Lo said she was shocked at the rise in car break-ins.

“I understand that the police can't be everywhere all the time, but we definitely need more police walking up and down the streets, with high visibility — especially in those hot spot areas,” she said.

DPP chairman Bob Stoker also expressed his shock at the rise in car break-ins.

“It seems to be a massive increase over previous months,” he said.

“The difficulty is that a lot of people are still leaving valuables visible inside their vehicles.

“Having said that, there is no excuse for the thieves who are carrying out these crimes.

“While I’m shocked at the figures I’m satisfied that police have implemented measures to deal with this type of crime.”

And south Belfast councillor Pat McCarthy had one simple message for car users.

“Don't make it easier for the thieves. Don't leave valuables in the car,” he said.

PSNI Area Commander for South Belfast, Chief Inspector Trevor O'Neill, said the police have launched a number of operations to tackle the crime.

“We can't be everywhere all the time — we have to target our resources,” he told the DPP meeting.

“We are focusing on offenders and the hot-spots where they operate.”

A PSNI spokesman offered some safety advice for car users.

“Passing criminals will take whatever they can get to make a quick profit and police would always urge anyone leaving their vehicle, even if only for a few minutes, to make sure valuables are removed or hidden away,” he said.

“It should go without saying that you should always lock your doors when leaving your vehicle unattended.

“Taking just a few simple steps can significantly improve your chances of not becoming a victim of this type of crime.”

During the meeting it was also revealed that domestic burglaries were on the decrease.

A total of 653 were reported between April 2009 and February 2010, a decrease of 130 in the same period the previous year.

Last month alone police made 63 arrests in connection with such offences in south Belfast.

And the clearance rate for domestic burglaries has risen by almost five percent to 13.8 percent since April of last year.

Chief Inspector O’Neill said while there was no need for complacency, the most recent figures were very encouraging.

“Following the rise in burglaries in previous years in south Belfast, my officers and I have been working hard both to catch burglars violating people's homes and to bring them before the courts,” he said.

“Burglary is a crime that causes much heartache and a sense of violation among victims.

“That’s why I am pleased to report 130 fewer burglaries in the past 10 months which means 130 fewer victims.”

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