Police are trying to calm growing fears among the elderly after thugs terrorised pensioners in a series of worrying attacks across Northern Ireland over the past few days.
The man who heads up PSNI investigations into thefts from homes has insisted the number of burglaries in the province is down compared to five years ago.
However, Chief Superintendent Henry Irvine admitted the clearance rate for burglaries is sitting at only 11.4%.
Last night police revealed details of a fresh incident at the home of two pensioners — an 86-year-old man and a woman (81) — in Belfast.
A man called at their home in the Marlfield Drive area around 2pm yesterday. After being let in he walked around the property and spoke to the occupants before making off with a sum of cash. Yesterday’s burglary followed similar incidents across Northern Ireland in recent days.
Mr Irvine said while some of the burglaries “could probably be linked, there is nothing to say they are all linked”.
“I would like to sympathise with all the victims of these burglaries, particularly the elderly, who are vulnerable people in our society and to emphasise how despicable and repugnant these types of crimes are,” he said.
“The number of burglaries can rise and fall and although they have risen in recent days, they are down compared to five years ago. Unfortunately, in many burglaries thieves are gaining access to homes through open doors and windows so I would appeal to people to ensure they take some very simple steps to stop burglars. We have to make it difficult for these people to get into our homes.”
He added: “The clearance rate for these crimes is 11.4%, which is slightly higher than last year. I know we could do a lot better increasing that figure and we are working hard to make clearance rates better. I would say we need the support of the community to do this. I would appeal to anyone with information or who saw anything to come forward and let us know to help us bring to justice the people behind these crimes.”
Upper Bann MP David Simpson called for an increased policing presence in areas worst hit by the recent burglaries, claiming it is essential to deliver a highly visible policing presence to reassure the public.
“Over the last weekend we have seen six house break-ins in Killicomaine,” he said.
“This amounts to a total of 13 burglaries over a three-week period in Portadown. I am aware of a similar spate of crimes in the Lurgan area in recent times. The people who I represent are deeply anxious that the battle against the criminals responsible for this mini crime wave in the area is not being won. People want to see a highly visible policing presence on the ground to deter these criminals from their evil activity.
“I have been in contact with senior police officers in the area to convey to them the sense of alarm which exists in the community. Not only does crime need to be tackled but the fear of
crime also must be confronted. That is why people want to see more officers on the beat. Any plans to reduce the front-line policing presence in my constituency will only serve to increase anguish throughout the community.”
The police commander in Craigavon has said that the recent outbreak of burglaries in the area will be investigated thoroughly.
Chief Inspector Jason Murphy said that the police will play their part but stressed that the public must recognise that the responsibility for the distress caused to victims lies fairly and squarely with the thieves.
He said: “Burglaries strike at the very heart of communities, they are a violation of a person’s home. They are the result of sheer criminality and greed. They are about someone making a conscious decision to break the law — to go out and break into someone else’s property, there is no excuse or justification.
“The police are investigating the burglaries in Killicomaine. We believe that they may be linked. It is often the case that one or two prolific criminals can wreak havoc in a community.
“We need the help and co-operation of the public. Someone knows who is doing this. They are clearly bringing their stolen goods somewhere. Someone can give us information who can help bring these criminals to justice and perhaps help prevent further crime.”
Elderly and vulnerable: the recent victims
NOVEMBER 17 Man steals cash after calling at the home of an elderly man and woman, aged 86 and 81, in the Marlfield Drive area of Belfast. The suspect was aged around 50, was 5ft 9ins in height and of plump build. He was wearing a black woollen hat, dark coloured half-sleeve shirt, trousers and dirty boots. A large silver saloon vehicle was seen in the area and may have been used by the intruder.
NOVEMBER 16 A gang of up to five masked men force their way into the home of an 86-year-old man at Mountnorris, Co Armagh. One holds the pensioner down on a bed while the others steal money.
NOVEMBER 15 Six properties in the Killicomaine area of Portadown are targeted by burglars while the residents are at church. The home of a 96-year-old man is among those ransacked.
NOVEMBER 14 An 82-year-old woman beats off two men who broke into her home on Oberon Street in east Belfast.
A man in his 80s is left badly shaken after three men hold him down at his home at Spring Road, Drumnakilly, while they search his house before escaping with money in a wallet.
NOVEMBER 13 Three men force their way into a house at Sheskin Way in the Castlereagh area, knocking the 83-year-old householder to the ground and holding her while the upstairs of the property is ransacked.
A 77-year-old woman answers a knock to the front door of her home in the Windsor Avenue area of Lisburn and is confronted by three men who push their way into the house. The men leave with bank books and some cash, including charitable donations.
In Dromore, a woman in her 80s is held up by three men in her home close to the town centre who make off with a sum of cash. The same gang, armed with an iron bar and a knife, are believed to be behind an attack on a man in his 50s in Edenderry.
HOW TO MAKE YOUR HOUSE MORE SECURE
- If your doors aren't secure neither is your house. Make sure your doors are strong enough, fit mortise deadlocks, door chains and viewers and use them. Never leave keys in the locks, on tabletops or hooks in view of external windows. Never hide spare keys under doormats or flowerpots.
- Whether your window frames are wood, metal or uPVC, there are various locks available, suitable for fitting to all window-type openings.
- Exterior lights are useful in discouraging the attention of criminals as it raises the potential of them being seen in the vicinity of your home by either yourself or a neighbour.
- Visible intruder alarms will often be a deterrent to a burglar. If you decide to have one fitted, make sure it is installed by a reputable company.
- Most modern alarms allow for the user to partially set their systems, even when at home.
- Do not keep large sums of money in the house.