Editor's Viewpoint: More force needed to catch carjackers
The offer of a £1,000 reward by charity, Crimestoppers, may help to bring those behind the latest crime wave in Belfast to justice.
There have been nine car hijackings and three attempted hijackings in just over a fortnight, with all but two of the targets women drivers. The sheer random nature of the attacks, the fact that they take place in broad daylight in most cases and the audacity of the criminals has led to a disproportionate feeling of panic about the crimes.
Public unease has also grown because the police seem unable to apprehend those behind the attacks. Some are undoubtedly the work of well-known car criminals and others simply copy-cat attacks. Only now does it seem that the police have taken the attacks seriously enough to set up a special unit to investigate and also to increase patrols on the city's streets.
The public will point to the fact that a police helicopter was mobilised when protesters took over a derelict building in the city centre on Monday but the apparent response to what is perceived as more serious crime is much more muted. The PSNI has issued tough words vowing to track down the carjackers but they will have to show substantial results fairly quickly to convince everyone that they are indeed on top of the situation.
Last summer's riots in England were only quelled when police went onto the streets in force - their heightened visibility helping to simultaneously reassure law-abiding members of the public and put the lawbreakers to flight. That is the model of policing response that the public here wants against the carjackers. They want to see more patrols, more police on the beat and criminals being apprehended. And the public must also play their part by giving police any information which could help catch the criminals. Not only is that a moral duty, but there are also 1,000 good reasons for calling the Crimestoppers charity.