Belfast Telegraph

Fears grow over an upsurge in car hijackings

by chris kilpatrick

The recent surge of violent carjackings has sparked fears of a widespread return of the crime.

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, will give rise to deep concern that another wave of attacks is gathering momentum.

Tuesday night's incident involving an 18-year-old couple was the second of its kind in three days and followed a series of similar hijackings in recent months.

The Belfast Telegraph previously revealed that the number of carjackings in Northern Ireland had increased 40-fold since 2004.

In 2004-2005 there were just six hijackings, whereas the most recent yearly statistics showed that the figure had soared to 238.

Children as young as 14 have been linked to the crimes in recent years and previously police suspected a west Belfast gang called the 'Divis Hoods' of involvement.

Some of the vehicles stolen, often in broad daylight, were later found burned out in west Belfast.

The police's response to the last upsurge in carjackings was Operation Rusico, involving between 40 and 60 officers from the autocrime unit and the PSNI helicopter.

The vast majority of victims to date have been women. One of those targeted was the Alliance MLA Anna Lo.

The most recent cases have taken place mostly in loyalist areas, and in a new development, those behind Tuesday's hijacking claimed to represent the UDA.

On Sunday a carjacking took place in the heart of the Rathcoole estate.

A terrified woman was dragged from her car by two men who then took off in the vehicle before setting it alight.

Fears have also increased among drivers in Londonderry after two motorists were viciously attacked during separate hijackings just days apart.

A retired bus driver was beaten when he confronted three teenagers in the process of stealing his car in the Carnhill area, and a second man was hauled from his van and brutally assaulted by two men in their 20s.

Belfast Telegraph


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