Belfast Telegraph

Carjack gangs target women

By Victoria O'Hara

A rise in violent carjackings targeting lone women has sparked calls for a police crackdown.

Three women have been left shocked by separate incidents across Belfast since January 3.

On Boxing Day a woman was forced from her car at gunpoint in north Belfast.

In the latest terrifying incident, a woman was dragged from her Porsche by four men.

The victim was sitting in her car in Chadwick Street, off the Lisburn Road, at around 4.40pm on Monday. She was not hurt but her car was found on fire in the Albert Street area of west Belfast.

The PSNI said it was treating the incidents "extremely seriously" and has been conducting "rigorous investigations".

A 15-year-old has been charged and appeared in court on January 5 in connection with the hijacking of a vehicle in the Rugby Road area of south Belfast on January 4. But politicians say more action needs to be taken.

South Belfast MLA Anna Lo described the "frequency" of the incidents as worrying.

"I think the police need to really double their efforts in trying to crackdown," she said.

"It is frightening for people. One women was pulled out of her car in broad daylight. It is something that we all could face." SDLP MLA and Policing Board member Conall McDevitt said he was "horrified" by the incidents.

"It is important for members of the public to remain vigilant of suspicious activity and to contact police if at all concerned," he said.

He appealed for anyone with information to pass it to police.

Colum Keenan, co-ordinator for Victim Support NI, said such attacks have a "devastating effect" on the victim.

"In the immediate aftermath of the incidents the victims will be suffering from shock.

"It is a trauma they've experienced here. Shock and fear. People are afraid that they will experience the same thing again."

Chief Superintendent Alan Todd said: "Following several recent incidents, we would encourage drivers to be vigilant of personal security while driving.

"We would like to reassure members of the public that whilst there has been a number of reports of hijackings recently, your chances of being a victim of this type of crime is still rare.

"Police take the issue extremely seriously and have been conducting rigorous investigations into these incidents."

Anyone with information can contact detectives on 0845 600 8000 or anonymously through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Factfile

How to stay safe when driving:

  • Do not stop if someone tries to flag you down. When it is safe to do so, call police from your mobile or find a public phone.
  • Only give lifts to people you know well.
  • Keep car doors locked and keep valuables out of sight.
  • If you need air, only wind your window down a little so nobody can reach in while you are stopped in traffic.
  • Keep your mobile out of sight and do not use it while driving.
  • If someone approaches your car, lock the doors and speak through a small gap in the window


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