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Monday, August 9, 1999 Published at 13:32 GMT 14:32 UK

Special Report

Plan to tackle joyriding hits the streets

RUC is cracking down on joyriders

The Royal Ulster Constabulary in Northern Ireland has set up a new squad to tackle the problem of joyriding.

The Team for Autocrime, dubbed the "TAC team", is made up of 25 officers.

According to the police, the team's plain-clothes officers will be using state of the art technology and covert operations to target Belfast's hardcore joyriders.

It is thought there are between 150 to 200 joyriders operating in the city.

Records show that in Northern Ireland thefts or unauthorised taking of a motor vehicle increased by a fifth last year to 9,705.

Security situation

The squad's team leader is Inspector Liam Byrne.

Inspector Byrne said: "In the past, due to the security situation, the RUC was restricted to reactive measures when it came to car crime, just mopping up.

"But this new situation presented by the ceasefires has allowed us to be bold and imaginative and look around the world for the best practice.

"This new team represents a watershed in policing this type of crime in the province.

"But to tackle this effectively, the community as a whole must work with the police.

"We would appeal to all sections of the community to approach us if they need help or we can help them," he said.

Investigates car crime

The team for autocrime investigates car crime throughout the whole of the Belfast region. It consists of 22 constables, two sergeants and inspector who are part of the Belfast Regional Crime Squad.

Inspector Byrne said: "We work as a unit which can be dedicated to particular hot spots on a daily or weekly or monthly basis depending on crime pattern analysis which shows trends of car crime in a particular area.

The latest analysis highlighted Lisburn, County Antrim. On Friday 6 August five cars were stolen and eight were tampered with.

The TAC believes that by using information on known criminals and the analysis of crime figures that they will be able to push back the tide of vehicle crime.

"Over time I would like to think that we will be be making inroads into pushing car crime back rather than holding it back," said one squad officer.

BBC NI's Etta Halliday talks to Ann Connolly about the joyriding problem
However, a west Belfast community worker takes little reassurance from the establishment of the TAC team.

Ann Connolly has spent the last 15 years trying to get the anti-joyriding message across to the young people of the area.

She said: "I don't think they are going to do anything different.

"They are going to chase after them at speed like the joyriders are doing.

"I think they should try and do something with the kids before they even get into the cars to prevent them," she said.

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