Belfast Telegraph

Our initial response to hijackings was wrong, say police

By Deborah McAleese

The PSNI has admitted the initial response to the spate of hijackings across Belfast was wrong and failed to reassure fearful motorists.

Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr and Chief Superintendent Alan McCrum made the admissions to members of the Policing Board during a private meeting about the recent crime wave yesterday.

The senior officers said the first response to the hijackings was to deal with the problem covertly, rather than address it publicly.

Since police switched their tactics they have received a lot of information from local communities about those suspected of being involved.

It is understood officers from a special task force set up to deal with the hijackings are focusing their attentions on the gang of prolific offenders based in west Belfast known as the ‘Divis Hoods’.

Previously the police said there was no evidence to suggest that the spate of hijackings were connected.

Since January 3, there have been nine hijackings and three attempted hijackings in and around the city centre. In 10 of those instances the victims were women.

So far, four males aged 15, 18, 19 and 24 have been arrested in connection with the attacks.

The 15-year-old has been charged with hijacking a car in the Rugby Road area of south Belfast on January 4. The other three males have been released on police bail pending further inquiries.

“I am confident that officers are currently on top of this,” DUP Policing Board member Jonathan Craig said.

“There has been an admission that the initial covert police response had not been the best response to take as it failed to reassure the public who were left feeling there was not a big enough reaction from police. When they realised they were wrong they quickly addressed this,” he said.

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