Communities meet to draft plan to fight increase in car thefts


PARENTS, community representatives and social workers from, some of west Belfast's fastest growing areas met last night to begin planning a strategy to counter local increases in teenagers speeding in stolen cars.

Earlier, Sinn Fein local councillors told a press conference a coordinated, community based, non violent approach to the problem was needed.

The areas worst hit by speeding in stolen cars are Twinbrook and Poleglass, on the outskirts of west Belfast. These areas are home to more than 15,000 people - between one third and half of them under 17.

Scores of cars were taken and burned out in those areas over Christmas, after being used by teenagers. Even the savage "punishment beatings" frequently meted out to young offenders by the IRA have failed to curb the problem, Sinn Fein councillors admitted yesterday.

They said they did not condone such beatings, and sought a holistic approach and a long term strategy for solving the problem.

Numerous groups had been working separately on the problem, Michael Ferguson, a local councillor, said but a collective approach was needed, with funding agencies, community groups, churches and schools combining their expertise.

One of the major factors in the offence was under age drinking the Sinn Fein councillors said. Local off licences and bars should be urged to be vigilant in preventing alcohol being sold to or acquired by under age people.

Parents must monitor their children's play where they played and who they played with. More full time youth workers and proper leisure facilities were needed.

Meanwhile, speed ramps and, physical barriers would prevent speeding in stolen cars in the areas most affected.