Cops in new Divis crackdown

By Ciara Quinn

LOCAL representatives have welcomed the announcement by the PSNI that a dedicated car crime operation targeting the lower Falls has been re-established.

Operation Galleas will involve a range of officers from the Auto Crime Team, Neighbourhood Policing Teams, response officers, detectives and officers from the Reducing Offending in Partnership Unit.

Last week the Andersonstown News reported that the self-styled leader of the Divis hoods was taunting police about his criminal activities on social media. Chief Inspector Anthony McNally said because of the recent increase in the number of incidents of car crime, “We are currently back in that same position again of having to enhance the resources that are being allocated to this problem in order to keep people safe.”

He added: “Prolific offenders and in particular those that get involved in car crime have been identified and are being monitored through the Reducing Offending in Partnership (ROP) Unit which has been operational across Belfast for over two years now.

“Through ROP a dedicated officer is assigned to each offender, they closely monitor offenders, when offences occur they attend court and seek to have strict bail conditions imposed, they ensure bail checks are conducted and if there are any breaches they act to bring the individual back into custody and before the courts again.

“The dedicated Auto Crime Team are also actively involved in the process of tackling car crime in West Belfast and receive a briefing before starting their shift on offenders, any outstanding stolen vehicles, incidents that may have occurred and bail checks required.”

Chief Inspector McNally said police are working closely with local people and holding regular meetings with the Falls Residents’ Association. “It is clear that a multi-agency approach is required to effectively tackle the causation factors linked to this generational problem, if collectively we are to deliver a long-term solution.”

Speaking to the Andersonstown News, development worker with Cumman Áithritheoirí na bhFál/Falls Residents’ Association, Chris Turley said he and other elected representatives welcomed news of the launching of Operation Galleas.

“The proof is in the pudding in terms of the success of this operation,” he said. “The problem we had with Operation Echinus was that it wasn’t sustained in the area. We would welcome any focus on car crime and death-driving that effectively deals with the actions of a reckless small minority of the lower Falls community.

“We can’t have the same situation we found ourselves in this time last year over the Christmas and New Year period when these so-called death-drivers were basically doing whatever they wanted. At one stage there were five to six stolen cars on the road last New Year’s and it is my understanding no-one has yet been arrested for this. We have massive support in the area, from the local MP, Fra McCann MLA and Councillor Mary McConville, and I would be encouraging extra resources and that they be continued in the area on a long-term basis.”

Meanwhile, police have appealed for information following the hijacking of a car in St Peter’s Close on Monday evening.

The car, a grey coloured Hyundai i40 taxi, was hijacked by two men armed with a baton and a suspected firearm at around 6.05pm. The taxi was abandoned minutes later a short distance away in Ladymar Walk after encountering a passing police patrol. The two males made off from the area on foot and the taxi driver reported an injury to his shoulder from being struck with the baton.

Detective Constable Gareth Hussey said: “We are seeking information about this incident and an incident which occurred in Northumberland Street at around 5.50pm when two men matching the descriptions of the hijackers were reported to have attacked a passing car with a baton and a firearm.

“Both were described as being around 30 years old and were wearing dark clothing with hooded tops. No damage was caused to the car and there were no injuries reported. The men made off in the direction of the Falls Road.

“I would appeal to anyone who witnessed either incident or who has any information which may assist us with our enquiries to contact CID in Tennent Street on 101.”

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