Police must protect our elderly
One of the scourges of modern times is the regular spate of callous and cowardly attacks on vulnerable elderly people, from all backgrounds, in Northern Ireland.
On Wednesday night there were two further attacks - one on a couple in the Rush Park area of Newtownabbey and the other at Ballysavage Road in Templepatrick, where thieves broke into a man's home and robbed him.
A particularly worrying aspect of this attack was the way in which the gang is believed to have used a vehicle to burst through electric gates at the man's property.
In both cases, there were effectively invasions of the privacy of ordinary people's homes. These were despicable attacks on property, with intent to frighten and steal.
The long-term psychological effects of such incidents are incalculable, as well as the heart-break at the loss of highly personal items.
In one recent case, a woman who was burying her husband returned from the funeral to discover that his wedding ring had been stolen. The trauma of that loss will last for the rest of her life.
Clearly, the police are largely unable to prevent such crimes, and the drastic cuts have helped to create this sorry state of affairs.
The closures of stations, and fewer police officers on the beat, have given the impression that crime has become a free-for-all.
Indeed, the sight of a police officer at night in some of our towns has become as rare as hen's teeth.
Sadly, criminals will always be in our midst, but the police need to become more resourceful.
Members of the public must also be encouraged to play a greater part in helping themselves.
There is much to be said for the traditional concept of good neighbourliness. This means looking out for each other, without being nosy, and being continually aware of what may be happening in your local area.
That said, however, the public can be expected to do only so much. The best line of defence is still the PSNI, but for too long there has been a culture in some areas of not contacting the police.
This culture must change. Too many people are at the mercy of heartless criminals, and they must be stopped. We can always do more to protect ourselves, but the PSNI is a police service for all.