Image of the Week

Campaign: Joyriding, 1986

Sean McKernan

Photo Date: 1986

Joyriding and associated car crime is a serious problem in Belfast, particularly in the west of the city. Latest police figures show that nearly a quarter of all stolen cars recovered in Northern Ireland are found in West Belfast. The problem is commonly attributed to social factors, with the majority of offenders being young men from unskilled working class households. Over the past 30 years the problem has increased and has been met with a range of responses by government, the police and communities. Apart from the risk of prison sentences, joyriders have been shot dead by the security forces while both republican and loyalist paramilitaries have subjected them to punishment beatings and shootings. 

In July 2003 the Police Service of Northern Ireland established an Auto Crime Team to help tackle the problem.
In May 2002, after the death of 15-year-old Debbie McComb in West Belfast, some families who had lost loved ones through 'joyriders' launched Families Bereaved Through Car Crime. The group campaigns for tougher sentences against joyriders, including mandatory prison sentences for repeat offenders. It also campaigns for improved education packages, more youth resources and a multi-agency task force, to work in tandem with a tougher sentencing policy. In 2003 the government introduced changes to the legislation that increased the maximum sentence for joyriding to 14 years.