Belfast Telegraph

Drivers put on alert after spate of attacks in Belfast

By Chris Kilpatrick

Two female motorists have been victims of terrifying attempted hijackings as police launch a crackdown to catch those responsible during the latest spate of attacks in Belfast.

On Thursday a woman was sitting in her vehicle on the lower Ormeau Road when a man opened the door and tried to pull her from it.

She sounded her horn and he ran off.

And on Sunday three men got in to a parked car that a woman was sitting in and pushed her out of the car.

The woman then got back into the car and asked the men to get out. They got out of the car and took the keys. All three males were dressed in black clothing.

It happened in the Library Street area of Belfast at around 6.30pm.

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 the victims were violently attacked.

Police yesterday urged motorists to keep their car doors locked and windows up at all times.

They were also advised to keep all valuables out of sight and park in well lit areas.

Police said keys should never be left in the ignition of a vehicle or the engine left running when unattended.

Details have just emerged on the attack that took place at around 6.38am last Thursday.

Detective Chief Inspector Gary Reid said: "A female was sitting in her parked car, when a male who is described as wearing a red/white scarf, a hoodie and jeans and who spoke with a Belfast accent, opened the car door and tried to pull the female from the vehicle. The female managed to sound the horn and the male ran from the scene.

"I am appealing to anyone who witnessed this incident or who has any information which may be of assistance to our investigation to contact CID in Musgrave on 101. Information can also be given anonymously through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111."

Police have launched an operation to tackle the current surge in car crimes in Belfast.

The teenage leader of the notorious so-called Divis Hoods Liberation Army, the west Belfast gang blamed for many of the crimes, has publicly taunted police he will not be stopped.

Operation Galleas is under way to tackle the problem. In the last year there were more than 40 car crimes every week across Belfast.

In just nine days last month, 21 cars were burnt out in the Divis area.

Last week police appealed for help in the search for a teenager who targeted female drivers in four separate car hijacking attempts in Belfast city centre on one day.

The youth attempted to drag a woman from her parked car at Russell Street in the worst of the incidents, which took place on Wednesday.

He first tried to open the driver's door in an attempted hijacking in Cromac Street. The attempt was foiled as the woman had her doors locked. He then made off towards Central Station.

Two further incidents were reported in the Stewart Street area a short time later.

In one of them, a woman was again targeted as she sat in her parked car with her doors locked. In the other, the youth tried to snatch car keys from a woman as she walked towards her car.

In the same week a woman was threatened with knives before her Peugeot 208 car was stolen from the Talbot Street area.

A fortnight ago a 59-year-old woman was left traumatised after hijackers punched her in the face before taking her car. The incident started at Norglen Parade in the Turf Lodge area of west Belfast.

And a mother-of-two told of the moment she was dragged from her car during a "horrendous" car hijacking in Belfast.

Janine Jackson had just finished some Christmas shopping in Belfast along with her best friend Helen Marks when a group of men ordered them out of their car in a car park at Dunbar Link.

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