Belfast Telegraph

Together we can drive this scourge from city's streets

Car-jackers are running out of road. They will be caught and brought to justice, says Chief Superintendent Alan McCrum

The media coverage of vehicle hijackings across Belfast over the course of the last two-and-a-half weeks has been well-documented. A total of 12 hijackings - nine substantive hijackings and a further three attempts - have taken place.

I would like to reassure the public that, while there have been a number of reports of hijackings recently, your chances of being a victim of this type of crime is extremely rare.

Police take the issue seriously and have been conducting rigorous investigations into these incidents. Three arrests have already been made and a 15-year-old was charged and appeared in court in relation to one of the hijackings.

A specific task group focusing on these crimes has been established, which I am leading. This will focus specifically on those individuals who are carrying out this particular type of crime.

Over the coming days there will be a much greater visibility of police officers across the city. This should help reassure people who are out, whether socialising, working or visiting the city.

I have identified a senior detective as the investigating officer, who will lead the investigation and report directly to me.

We have some very clear lines of inquiry, which we are confident will materialise in more arrests. There is nothing to suggest at this point that there is a clear link in relation to any of these crimes.

Some of them are opportunistic and some of them are slightly better-planned. We will analyse all the crimes to identify if there are any links and ensure the highest level of investigative rigour is brought to bear.

My message to those responsible is that you will be caught and you will be brought before the courts.

It has been predominately females who have been victims of these crimes, as the perpetrators seek to exploit their vulnerability. Therefore, I would encourage drivers to be vigilant of their personal security while driving.

There are a number of precautions drivers can take to prevent themselves from becoming a victim. Measures such as keeping your doors locked and windows up in built-up areas - especially at traffic lights - and keeping valuables out of view.

Also never pick up hitchhikers or give lifts to strangers and always plan your route and, if in doubt, take a map to avoid asking strangers for directions.

Never leave your keys in the ignition when you are not in the vehicle - even if you have passengers in the car. Always take the keys with you.

We would also advise drivers to be wary of anyone who tries to signal that there's something wrong with your car, unless you believe they may be right and it is dangerous to drive on. If possible, drive to the next garage, or built-up area, to check your car over.

If you have pulled over for someone and you have concerns about their behaviour as they approach your vehicle, flash your lights and sound your horn. If you have an alarm, set it off.

When parking, drivers should wait until they are close to the car before unlocking it, and if the car design allows it, unlock the driver's door only.

These crimes are traumatic and upsetting for victims. To lose your car in such an aggressive and brutal way is very distressing.

Belfast is a safe city with so much to offer. At present, it is making the headlines for the wrong reasons.

I and my uniformed and detective colleagues will, therefore, endeavour to end this cycle of unwanted activity as quickly as it has started.

But we cannot do it alone. We need the efforts and support of the local community, their representatives and those with influence to exercise that authority and help bring these cowardly criminals before the courts.

Please report any suspicious activity or information about these incidents to police, or anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Help us to eradicate this scourge from our city's streets once and for all.

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