Thief stole Strabane taxi then took fares from the public in Derry
A thief stole a taxi then collected fares from unsuspecting passengers, police have revealed.
The vehicle was taken from Barrack Street in Strabane, Co Tyrone, after the owner went into a shop on Saturday night.
The Volkswagen Passat was then driven to Londonderry – 14 miles away – where the thief collected fares.
Police said the taxi sustained damage before it was recovered by officers several hours later.
A 34-year-old man was arrested for a range of offences in connection with the theft.
It was the second time in recent weeks a a taxi had been stolen as the owner visited a shop.
The suspect was arrested at Bishop Street in Derry in the early hours of Sunday.
He was detained by police on suspicion of taking and driving away, dangerous driving, driving while unfit, common assault and resisting police.
He was subsequently released on bail pending further police enquiries.
An officer wrote on the Strabane PSNI's Facebook page: "The suspect in this case made his way to the city and had the audacity to collect fares in the taxi.
"Police located the vehicle after a few hours and made one arrest for an array of offences. Unfortunately in this case, the vehicle had been damaged.
"These criminals lay in wait for gift-wrapped opportunities. Please remove the keys from your vehicle when you leave it, no matter how soon you intend to return."
Members of the public commented below the Facebook post that those responsible for such thefts should be held to account by the judicial system.
This prompted an admission from the officer posting to the account that the PSNI is often frustrated by the punishment handed down to criminals by the courts.
"Regarding the suspect or the criminal, the police will use whatever means they can to prevent these people from reoffending, but it must be remembered that when the police bring a case before the court, the decision of prosecution and sentence is up to the justice system," the officer said.
"The police can also be frustrated at times with sentences handed down."