Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Massive rise in crime as thugs go on a credit-crunch thieving spree

The credit crunch is fuelling a crime boom with robberies, burglary and theft all on the rise.

Latest police figures reveal robberies have increased by 12 per cent in the past year, while burglaries and theft are up six per cent.

Under-pressure detectives are clearing just one in every 10 of these crimes, giving robbers a massive 90 per cent chance of escape.

In a frank admission earlier this year, outgoing Chief Constable Hugh Orde linked the crime increase to the recession.

Shopkeepers, whose businesses are suffering, are in complete agreement — but they also slammed police for not doing enough to catch criminals.

Joe McGivern’s two Belfast shops have been robbed three times in the past year.

He believes the PSNI needs to do more to protect businesses.

“The recession is definitely linked to an increase in crime, there can be no doubt about it,” said Joe, who has been trading for 17 years.

“Robberies aren't like they were before though, 90 per cent of the people carrying them out are off their heads on drugs, which makes them even more dangerous.”

Joe revealed how low police clearance rates mean many business owners are reluctant to call the cops.

“I know lots of shopkeepers who say ‘what’s the point in calling the police?’ if their business is robbed. You only have to look at the PSNI’s clearance rates — they hardly fill you with confidence.”

Last week thieves rammed a car into McAtee's bar in Co Tyrone before stealing a cash machine from the premises.

The owner of the Fintona pub, Vinnie McAtee, said the harsh financial climate was adding to his woes.

“The present financial times are already a struggle for businesses like mine and this is going to cost me a lot of money,” he said.

“There was over £2,000 in that machine, which is our machine because we leased it out and filled it up.

“Whoever did this knew where the machine was and knew what they were doing.”

The robbery at McAtee's was the fifth recent ram raid in the Tyrone/Fermanagh area, and came just six weeks after a digger was used to break into an ATM at a Newtownbutler supermarket.

Store owner Declan McCabe criticised police, who took 12-hours to respond to his emergency calls.

Residents of Co Armagh are also suffering from recession-linked crime.

Three weeks ago Mickey Catney, 77, was hit over then head with a shotgun and tied to a radiator while robbers stole £10,000 from the Craigavon Eire Og GAA Club.

The community was so sickened by the raid that they organised a benefit night for the pensioner.

Recalling the violent robbery,

Mickey said: “It was such a shock. I had no idea what was going on.”

Fearful shop owners have met PSNI bosses in Omagh to discuss increased crime rates brought about by the recession.

The meeting was organised by trade boss Glyn Roberts, who says the business community is “greatly concerned” by the rise in robberies.

“Crime against retailers impacts not just on business owners, but on jobs and investment, particularly given the depth of recession the Northern Ireland economy is going through,” said Glyn.

The PSNI maintains it is doing all it can to combat the recession crime wave.

But despite the best efforts of detectives, robberies and burglaries are still occurring at an alarming rate.

Last weekend saw a knife robbery at a shop in Strabane, and on Wednesday it emerged that former Linfield soccer star Lindsay Curry was robbed at knifepoint in Ballymena as he picked up a taxi fare.

Policing Board member Basil McCrea last night called on the PSNI to come up with an action plan to tackle recession crime.

The Ulster Unionist MLA, whose home has been burgled twice in the past year, called for actions, not words.

He said: “The PSNI needs to come up with a plan. It’s all well and good saying that recessions bring crime increases, but what are they doing about it?

“The courts also have a role to play. There needs to be stiffer sentencing for robbers and burglars, because these crimes show no remorse.”

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