One woman in south Belfast is spearheading a campaign to ensure the safety of the older residents after a spate of burglaries in the area.
Lorraine Geddis, from Rydalmere Street, began to rally the support of local residents after her distressed 80 year old neighbour ran over to her house in the early hours of Sunday, May 16 after realising someone had broken into her home.
Mrs Geddis said: “My neighbour was most distressed and panicked. She didn't realise there was anybody in the house, she just got up after 2.30am to use the bathroom. On her way there she heard people, it was lucky the noise of her moving about upstairs disturbed the burglars — goodness knows what could have happened. She was frightened out of her wits and ran straight over to our house for help in her nightgown. I called the police straight away.
“We desperately need alleygates, and we need them now. This past two and a half years there has been a rise in burglaries and attempted burglaries in this area — particularly over the back of terraced houses’ walls. I'm sure there has been at least a dozen this year.”
She said the situation was not so desperate for young and fit residents but added: “These burglars seem to be watching out for the elderly and pin-pointing their homes to rob. A lot of elderly people cannot protect themselves — they are helpless. Older people do not deserve this.
“I feel something won't be done until someone dies. It wasn't so long ago that an older neighbour suffered a stroke after he discovered burglars in his home. Like I said something needs to be done now, my 80 year old neighbour is my good friend. I hate to see her live in such fear now. When I am with her every time she hears a noise she jumps. She shouldn't have to feel this way at this time of life.”
Lorraine has recruited neighbours Yvette Morrison and Iris Reid and together they have been taking to the streets to get a petition signed for the introduction of alleygates in the area.
Mrs Geddis said: “UUP Councillor Bob Stoker is supporting us and has discussed the procedures we need to follow to make a case for them to be installed.
“I read in the CT last week that residents will be getting them in off the Lisburn Road area and consultation has went out. Why them, and not us too? We will be following the procedures to the letter. A couple of local community centres are allowing us to use their photocopier for free to print out the petition and the surveys we need to start the ball rolling. But really this whole process takes too long.”
Councillor Bob Stoker said: “Quite a number of pensioners have been burgled in the Donegall Road area lately. As well as the victim on Rydalmere street, a older person in the area had her whole house ransacked while she was at church. I support local people like Lorraine taking it into her own hands to do something about it in a very constructive way.”
Gavin Bell, of the community safety team at Belfast City Council, said six months was the shortest wait he had heard of before alleygates were installed. He added: “Rydalmere Street has not been included in these round of alley gate consultation that is currently taking place. However, we whole heartedly support local people taking the initiative and leading community consultation. I have spoken with Cllr Bob Stoker and will be assisting in whatever way I can to help.”
Petitions will be available to sign at the Windsor Women's Centre, South City resource centre, Greater Village Regeneration Trust office, Arellian Nursery School and at Popular grocery shop for the next week.