Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

Editor's Viewpoint: Attacks on elderly call for swift action

No one reading the words of 85-year-old George Burns in this newspaper today could fail to be moved.

The frail grandfather was left traumatised after being threatened with machetes, brutally bound and robbed of £9,000 and three guns. But the cowardly thugs who broke into his home near Banbridge stole something more precious from him, the feeling of safety that he previously enjoyed. He lived alone but happily, but now is too afraid to return to his house on his own. He has been robbed of his independence.

And he is not alone as the litany of attacks on the elderly detailed in today's newspaper reveal. Pensioners aged from 70-91 years have been the target of thieves. It is obvious that they were targeted deliberately as many people of that generation still keep relatively large sums of money in their homes. Living alone they are easy prey for young, fit thieves who often accompany their robbery with frightening degrees of violence.

Such are the frequency of attacks on the elderly it is now evident that concerted action is required against those responsible. A special police task force would seem a sensible initiative, enabling detectives to determine if there is a common thread in the assaults or whether there are several gangs of thieves at work. But the PSNI needs every assistance possible from local communities.

The identity of these gangsters must be known, or at least suspected, and any information, no matter how trivial it may seem, should be passed on to police.

As well, politicians and community leaders must speak out strongly against such attacks, mobilising public support in a bid to capture the thieves. Finally, when caught, the thieves should face the full rigour of the law. Assaults and robbery of the elderly is a heinous crime and society's condemnation of it must be made clear. These elderly people, like Mr Burns, have undergone horrendous experiences, often in the dead of night, and have been put in fear of their lives. Those responsible must be found and punished.

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