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137 thefts from vehicles since April

Car crime on the rise across South Belfast

By Paul Ainsworth

Theft from vehicles is rising faster in South Belfast than anywhere else in the city, the PSNI has revealed.

Over the last three months, more incidents of thefts from cars, including “smash and grabs” took place in the south of the city than other constituencies, with a whopping 59 incidents in June alone.

Valuables left on display are luring thieves to break into vehicles, and a local residents’ spokesman has said the issue will be the focus of a new neighbourhood watch scheme being set up over the coming months.

The police crime figures reveal that since April, when officers begin compiling data for the financial year, 137 “theft from a vehicle” reports have been made in South Belfast, compared to just 32 in East, 37 in North, and 54 in West Belfast.

While South Belfast saw a jump of 59 incidents in June, East saw 11, north 12, and West 24.

Local Criminology academic Dr John Topping, who lectures at the University of Ulster said a number of factors could be offering crooks the chance to operate without fear in the leafy suburbs, and busy thoroughfares of South Belfast. “With less students around, a lot of our streets can feel empty during the summer,” he said.

“There are less people to keep an eye out on who is hanging around the areas, and what they’re up to. Unfortunately, summer in Belfast can be a tense time for police, and as their attention is diverted to other parts of the city, for issues including marches, then it’s giving thieves the opportunity to work unhindered. We have to remember, though, that in general, South Belfast can be a high crime area.”

In Stranmillis, a community spokesman said the problem has previously caused upset in the local area, and that a new Neighbourhood Watch scheme this autumn would help address the problem.

Andrew Charles said: “We will be recruiting new street watchers to keep an eye on things and report suspicious behaviour to the police. Theft from cars is exactly the sort of crime that vigilance in local areas can prevent, and hopefully we can help stop this huge rise from continuing.”

A PSNI spokesman said that police officers continue to alert car owners to the threat of such crime upon discovering vulnerable vehicles.

“Officers can and do send written communication to owners advising them of the time and date they were displaying valuables, and explaining safety precautions so they don’t become a victim of this crime,” he said.


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