CAR criminals who target staff and visitors at York Hospital were today described as "without morals" by the man in charge of security on the site.

Arthur Tomkins, head of security at York Hospital, said security had been stepped up on the Wigginton Road site after an increase in car break-ins and car thefts over the past six weeks.

Hospital staff were returning to their cars to find windows smashed and items stolen, sometimes after finishing a shift late at night, he said. Thieves were also damaging the security barriers in order to drive cars out of the car park.

Mr Tomkins said that CCTV footage capturing acts of vandalism and theft was already in the hands of police, and he urged the public to be extra vigilant.

He said: "One has got to question the mentality and morality of people who would steal from public servants and visitors to the hospital.

"It makes us want to redouble our efforts and do the best we can to catch these people, put them before the courts and let the courts deal with them."

Mr Tomkins said improved security at nearby Union Terrace car park, which recently won a coveted Secured Car Parks Award and is one of six car parks across the city equipped with a help point linked directly with police, could have forced car thieves on to the hospital site.

He said the hospital's recently-submitted plans to expand its car park would involve increased security measures.

Danny Morgan, head of facilities for York Health Services NHS Trust, said it was a serious problem for those involved.

He said: "It's particularly awful when it's 3am and someone has finished a long shift on a difficult ward and they find their car has been broken into. I do feel for them. We have had a couple of cars stolen in the last few weeks. Both of them were taken in the afternoon from the main car park, which is pretty blatant.

"We are probably getting two or three incidents a week, whereas normally two or three a month would be the batting average."

A York Police spokesman said: "We are aware of incidents on the hospital site. We are working closely in conjunction with hospital security to try and eradicate the problem."

Updated: 09:01 Wednesday, May 21, 2003