Fears have been expressed about the re-emergence of so-called joyriding in Cork City after an almost 70% spike in the number of reported car thefts.
New Garda figures show there were 75 reports of theft or the unauthorised taking of a vehicle in the Cork City Garda Division in the first quarter of this year — up from 45 for the same period last year.
The figures represent a 67% increase in this category of property crime, a meeting of the Cork City Joint Policing Committee was told yesterday.
Two northside city councillors said they have noticed an increase in the number of incidents of youths driving stolen cars at high speed around northside suburbs.
And they said they have concerns that unless there is a concerted Garda crackdown on the gangs involved, they have real fears that the practice of joyriding, which once blighted the city, could gain a foothold amidst a new generation.
Sinn Féin councillor Thomas Gould said the figure of 75 stolen cars in the first quarter of the year represents almost one car stolen every night since January.
“That’s just not acceptable in my view. We have a major issue of stolen cars and death-riding going on,” he said.
“I can take the guards up to roads in the northside and show them the tyre marks on the roads where these guys are doing handbrake skids, mounting the kerbs, ramming gates and all that.
“We know there are gangs out there involved in this and I want a crackdown on these gangs. They are making life for communities hell.”
Party colleague Mick Nugent said he is aware of isolated incidents in the northwest of the city, particularly around Gurranabraher, and has concerns that joyriding is “creeping back”.
Mr Nugent said those involved, who have abandoned and in some cases torched the stolen cars, have caused extensive damage to local authority property, to sports clubs and pitches.
“There are kids pooling together to buy cheap cars and race them around the city,” he said.
“They are putting themselves and their communities at risk. Those people who are selling these cheap cars should ask themselves who are they selling to, and what are the cars going to be used for afterwards.”
However, Lord Mayor Tony Fitzgerald, who lives in the Hollyhill area of the northside, urged caution in handling of the issue.
He said the image of some areas had been blighted, and these communities had been “labelled” over the years, because of where these stolen vehicles were abandoned.
He said that projects introduced in the city more than 20 years ago, when combined with behind-the-scenes efforts, helped to virtually eliminate joyriding.
“There are models of best practice here which helped to eliminate the problem in the city before,” he said.
“But we must do it in a way that doesn’t damage the image of communities where it’s happening. It’s not confined to any one area, it’s a national problem.
“Research shows that young people who engage in this kind of activity get excited when they are involved in it, but that they also love to see it reported in the media.”
Chief Superintendent Barry McPolin said senior gardaí are hopeful the increase in the theft of cars is just a temporary spike.
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