LOCAL community workers have expressed concern about an apparent increase in car crime in the lower Falls area.
It comes after a number of vehicles were burnt out in the district in recent weeks.
Community representatives say the area had experienced a period of relative calm during the summer months, which has been marred by a minority number of “reoffending” criminals.
Lisa Lynn, Community Safety Officer for the Communities in Transition Programme, said: “A few weeks after lockdown ended a lot of reoffenders were released (from prison).
“It’s a very, very small minority of people, criminals, who are doing this.
“It quietens down when they are all back inside.
“It’s not kids either – these people are in the mid-twenties. It’s not so much a reflection on the young people of the area because car crime doesn’t seem to be a thing now amongst younger people.
“It’s just the negative influence that these older ones may have on them.
“It’s not nice when we have the shells being left burnt out for days. Kids then maybe try to re-set the fire and it’s impacting the residents living nearby.”
Tina Black from Grosvenor Community Centre said: “When the vehicles are being burnt out the downside of that for your area is that it’s coming out of someone’s budget. The Road Service, for instance, if we’re trying to have potholes repaired on another site, but resourcing has to come from somewhere to repair this malicious damage.
“Our concern is that this is financially preventing this area from getting better. If you’re constantly doing repair work you can’t look at the bigger picture stuff like redesigning and reimaging our streets.
“When vehicles are dumped they’re often set on fire near residents’ properties, so that presents a risk. It tarnishes the area in terms of crime stats, insurance costs and recorded figures for the area. For people who own their property it’s affecting resale value. It’s affecting the economic vibrancy of the area as well.
“We’re always encouraging people to report to the relevant agencies like the Falls Residents’ and Falls community safety structures, so I don’t think it’s a lack of people reporting. I think people get tired when things don’t change, and they’re kind of accepting it as a given – that it’s okay to live with that sort of terror.”
Community reps have called for statutory agencies, including the police, to be more proactive in removing burnt-out and stolen cars.
Last week, a car had been left burnt out near residents’ homes on Ross Street, but lay there for four days before it was removed.
Gerard Fusco, from the Frank Gillen Centre, commented: “It’s a classic case of ‘it wouldn’t be allowed to happen on the Malone Road’.
“If a car was burnt-out on the Malone Road it would be moved within minutes. It wouldn’t be lying for hours or days.
“When a car has been burnt-out it should be lifted right away – that sends a message.”