Belfast Telegraph

Pensioners still very unlikely to be targets of crime

By Bill Carson

The idea that older people living in our communities are potentially being targeted because of their age or frailty is shameful and we join with others in condemning these crimes.

But it is important to reassure older people they are unlikely to become a victim of crime; particularly a violent offence.

In Northern Ireland there are more than 260,000 people aged 65 and over. The PSNI has revealed that in 2012/13, 200 were hurt in a violent attack, or 0.08% of that number.

Although 200 of these attacks is 200 too many, the last thing we want is for older people to lock themselves away like prisoners in their own homes.

It is important our older population remain active members of our communities, and fear of crime should never place restrictions on that.

During the last three years, the Northern Ireland Pensioners Parliament has highlighted fear of crime among older people as a major issue, with two out of three older people highlighting it as a problem.

Last year Justice Minister David Ford responded to this by announcing a project to help find out why fear of crime is so high and, more importantly, what can be done to help reduce it.

Since then Age Sector Platform has worked to identify the main factors causing high levels of fear among older people.

From speaking to older people across Northern Ireland it is clear that communication needs to improve and better connections made with the police.

The vulnerability of older people as they age obviously has an impact on levels of fear, but also highlighted has been the need for more balanced media reporting and improved conviction rates and sentencing.

It is clear that arrest and clearance rates for crimes against older people need to be improved; particularly when considering the psychological effect being a victim of crime can have on an older person.

It is vital that criminals are sent a clear message from the police and justice system – you will be caught and punished.

Reassurance must be given to older people that crimes will be taken seriously when reported.

 

Bill Carson is chairman of Age Sector Platform

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