Lock your car doors, women warned after sixth hijacking
With six hijackings in the space of just 10 days, the rapid surge in attacks has led to warnings from police for women drivers to keep their doors and windows locked.
Five of the six incidents have been attacks on female drivers.
During the most recent hijacking a woman had just parked in the John Street area of the city centre yesterday morning when she was ordered out of her car by a man who then sped off in the vehicle.
Police have been unable to find a link between the recent attacks and therefore suspect they are the work of copycats.
"There is no real common denominator that we can see at present here. There is no real evidence to suggest these attacks are being organised," a police source said.
The apparent replication of the crimes by different criminals has sparked concern that it will make it more difficult for police to control the spate.
The PSNI has said the crime is still relatively rare, but warned motorists to be extra vigilant and to keep doors locked and windows up while in built up areas and at traffic lights.
Drivers have also been advised to be wary of anyone who tries to signal that there is something wrong with their car. Over the past 10 days a woman was dragged from her Porshe Boxter by a four-man gang in the Chadwick Street area of south Belfast, a female was ordered from her car by two men in Hardcastle Street, a 15 year-old youth was arrested after allegedly hijacking a woman's car at Rugby Road, a female was hit in the face when her car was hijacked by a man on the Shankill Road, and a taxi driver had a screwdriver held to his throat during an attempted hijacking in north Belfast.
"The fact that this is the sixth car hijacking in 10 days shows how serious a problem this is and I would urge the police to put extra resources in place to prevent this type of crime and reassure the public," Alliance MLA Anna Lo (right) said.
"This type of crime can be a particularly horrific experience for the victim, so I hope that those people responsible for these car hijackings are swiftly brought to justice before the courts," she added.
DUP Policing Board member Jonathan Craig said the board is very concerned about the issue.
"Police are keeping a very close eye on this and they have had some success with the arrest of a youth over one of the attacks. I think it has to be remembered that despite this spate of hijackings, the long-term trend is going down."
- Be vigilant. Keep doors locked and windows up in built-up areas and especially at traffic lights
- Keep valuables out of view
- Never pick up hitchhikers or give lifts to strangers
- Never leave keys in the ignition when not in the vehicle
- Be wary of anyone who tries to signal there is something wrong with your car. Drive to the next garage to check
- If you have pulled over for someone and have concerns about their behaviour, flash your lights and sound your horn
- Choose a busy, well-lit place to park
- Have car keys ready as you return to the car and only unlock your car when close by