The PSNI are to hold a ‘birthday celebration’ at Grosvenor Road PSNI station in the coming week to mark two years since the setting up of the high-profile Auto Crime Team (ACT).
And after admitting that ACT only work alternate weekends, the PSNI squad have now been dubbed ‘part-time peelers’ by the residents of West Belfast.

A member of one of the bereaved families which helped campaign for changes in the law says the PSNI still have a long way to go before there is cause for celebration.
Kieran Conlon’s 21-year-old son, Kieran, was killed by notorious car criminal Stephen Campbell in May 2002.

Although the group Families Bereaved Through Car Crime welcomed the setting up of ACT – it promised to crack down on car crime in the Belfast area – Kieran says there are still massive strides to make in the fight against car criminals.

Yesterday, West Belfast’s top cop Peter Farrar admitted that the team do not work every weekend saying it would be, “physically impossible” for them to do so. However, he maintains that the team have made an impact.

“To date the ACT have made 498 arrests, and with new powers of arrest that come into effect today (Wednesday) we hope to be able to build on that,” he said. “The amount of cars stolen in the Greater Belfast area has been halved.

“It is physically impossible to have the Auto Crime Team working every night and every weekend. What we can promise is that the PSNI do have a presence in West Belfast 24-hours-a-day seven-days-a-week.”

But the part-time nature of the unit means that the effectiveness of ACT is still being questioned.

Kieran Conlon Senior said: “FBTCC were promised by the Chief Constable Hugh Orde when we met over a year ago that every resource available would be made available to ACT.
“At the time we welcomed this move.

“However, two years on I feel there is little cause for celebration. To be taken seriously the team need to have a full-time presence.

“Car criminals do not work part-time hours or take alternate weekends off. As far as I can see Hugh Orde has failed to live up to this promise.”

And Kieran added that the figures showing a drop in car crime were not the whole story. Families Bereaved Through Car Crime have maintained for a long time that runarounds, not stolen cars, are the new danger on our roads.

“The large number of runarounds on the streets are not covered in these PSNI figures.

“Car criminals stopped by the PSNI in a runaround are given a producer to appear at the nearest police station with their documents and allowed to go on their way. They simply give a false name and address and are never seen again. Despite recent changes, which again we welcome, the laws to deal with this type of car crime are ineffective.

“Until this is dealt with there will continue to be car criminals on the road and innocent people will continue to die.”

Journalist:: Allison Morris

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