Belfast Telegraph

Latest Belfast hijackings spark fears thug gang 'will stop at nothing'

By Chris Kilpatrick

A woman was pulled from her car and a delivery driver left badly shaken as a surge in carjackings across Belfast continues.

Drivers have been urged to keep doors locked and windows up as police battle to clamp down on the spate of attacks.

There are fears the hijackers and so-called joyriders will ramp up their campaign in the run-up to Christmas.

Most of the thefts and attacks are blamed on west Belfast criminal gang, the Divis Hoods Liberation Army.

A dedicated PSNI car crime probe - Operation Galleas - is under way to tackle the problem, but a veteran politician last night said more had to be done before somebody was killed.

"It's absolutely horrendous," Ulster Unionist councillor Jim Rodgers told the Belfast Telegraph.

"Quite clearly this is an organised gang behind this and in most cases they are targeting women. We need to do more to stop this and men and women need to make sure they are aware of the risks.

"In the run-up to Christmas crime will be on the increase and these people will stop at nothing.

"These hijackers wouldn't think twice about pulling a knife or a gun, so that is a big concern."

Shortly after midnight yesterday, two men pulled a woman from a silver Nissan Micra while she was stopped at traffic lights on Divis Street. They made off in the car, which was found abandoned in Kilmore Close in the city.

At midday on Tuesday a delivery van driver was getting a parcel from the back of his van when three men tried to bundle him into the vehicle.

He managed to get away.

Both victims were unhurt, but left badly shaken by their experiences.

In the past year there have been more than 2,200 car thefts or related car crimes across Belfast - more than 40 a week.

Around 80 of those crimes were hijackings.

PSNI Detective Chief Inspector Gary Reid said: "We are adopting a rigorous investigative process to any hijacking incident.

"I am appealing to anyone who witnessed any of these incidents or who has any information which may be of assistance to contact police on the non-emergency number 101.

"Or, if someone would prefer to provide information without giving their details, they can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers and speak to them anonymously on 0800 555 111.

"I would also encourage motorists to consider car security at all times."

Last Saturday a man was treated for head injuries after a car hijacking and robbery attempt in south Belfast.

Detectives are investigating the incident, which happened in the Ulsterville Gardens area, off the Lisburn Road.

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. In recent weeks police have seen an increase in activity from car thieves and joyriders.

In the space of just nine days last month, 21 stolen cars were discovered burnt out in the Divis area of the lower Falls Road. There were at least nine reported carjacking attempts last month in Belfast.

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