Broken Belfast street lighting blamed for attracting knife-wielding burglar
Residents in east Belfast fear broken street lighting attracted an intruder who held a knife to a man's throat.
On Monday night a man in his 30s, who lives at Trillick Street near the Albertbridge Road, returned home at around 9pm to find a man ransacking his house.
The intruder threatened him and held a knife to his throat before fleeing on foot.
Although the victim was not injured and nothing was believed stolen, he was left badly shaken.
The incident terrified neighbours in the street, where only half the lights are working.
Community development worker Gareth Beacom said: "I've just been speaking to a couple of people who live on the street. They are very shocked.
"One of the things has been the lights on the street... that's one of the things they think attracted him in.
"It's very dull and dark. There's only two or three lampposts in the street. They are a bit frightened because of that. They are pretty shocked.
"It's an area that hasn't seen much in the way of burglaries in the last couple of years, but they're scared in case this is going to be an ongoing thing."
Mr Beacom said he contacted the authorities to address the problem.
A spokesman for Transport NI said: "There are four lights on Trillick Street and two have been recorded as defective.
"This area was surveyed on December 18, 2015 and repairs are due to commence on January 25, when all outages will be attended to.
"Transport NI is working to ensure the backlog of defective lights is completed by the end of March 2016, and we ask for the public's understanding as we work to clear the backlog."
PUP councillor John Kyle has his office close to Trillick Street.
"These sorts of incidents are very upsetting and disturbing for the resident," he said.
"Burglaries by individuals carrying weapons are always a cause for concern, and I would urge anyone in the area who has any information to contact police."
The attacker is described as in his late 20s or early 30s, approximately 5ft 7ins, of heavy build with dark hair and stubble. He was wearing a grey hooded top and light grey track bottoms. Police have appealed for information.
Yesterday, Regional Development Minister Michelle McIlveen told the Assembly the backlog of broken street lights should be cleared by the end of March.
External contractors have been given more than 13,000 repair jobs since November, shortly after the DUP minister took over from Ulster Unionist Danny Kennedy, whose party pulled out of the Executive.
Mrs McIlveen has also introduced a new online method of reporting street lighting faults.
She said: "The public can assist us by reporting faults on the NI Direct website under 'Street Lighting and reporting a Fault'. Callers can also report street lighting faults by telephone to 0300 200 7899."
Cutbacks have meant that since last April a backlog of street lighting outages accumulated as the department was unable to employ contractors.
Additional funding has now allowed the Department for Regional Development to re-engage contractors.