29/11/2004

Drive launched to clear roads of 'run-arounds'

Lord Mayor of Belfast Tom Ekin and Criminal Justice Minister John Spellar have joined forces to launch Operation Clean Up, a long-term initiative to remove hundreds of untaxed and so-called ‘run-around’ vehicles from the city’s streets.

Funded primarily by the Northern Ireland Office, the operation aims to reduce crime linked to these types of vehicle. In particular, domestic burglary, theft of and from vehicles, robberies and drive-offs from petrol stations, vehicle arson and road accidents.

The Lord Mayor, Councillor Tom Ekin, said: “One of the Council’s key priorities is to make Belfast a safer city. I feel that Operation Clean Up will make a significant contribution to achieving this aim.”

Criminal Justice Minister John Spellar added: “This is a clear example of how many different agencies including Belfast City Council, the Police Service, the NIO, the DVLNI and the Fire Brigade, can work together in partnership to tackle real problems in our communities, make a significant reduction in volume crime and ultimately improve their safety and quality of life.”

Deputy Assistant Chief Constable Karen Kennedy pointed out that the scheme would specifically target those untaxed cars used as ‘run-arounds’, some of which are associated with burglary, car crime, arson, anti-social behaviour and road traffic accidents.

“Operation Clean Up aims to have a dramatic impact on community safety, both by reducing crime levels and improving safety in the greater Belfast area, " said Deputy ACC Kennedy.

"In 2002, a three month PSNI pilot project demonstrated that this intervention reduced thefts from vehicles by 27 per cent, vehicle thefts by 19 per cent, ‘drive offs’ from filling stations by 23 per cent, vehicle arson by 23 per cent, and road traffic collisions by 22 per cent”.

The police, with the authority of the DVLNI, now have the power to remove unlicensed vehicles from the streets. Unclaimed vehicles will either are auctioned or destroyed.

Owners claiming their cars will be required to pay collection and storages fees and a refundable sum against obtaining their tax disc.

The DVLNI also will take action against those whose cars are removed under the scheme.

A number of vehicles, seized over recent weeks in a pilot scheme, were crushed on-site today as Operation Clean Up got underway.

(SP)

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