Time to halt thieves' reign of terror
Imagine the terror that those elderly people in Co Down must have felt when they were confronted at night by gangs of five men intent on robbing them. There they were isolated and unable to confront the thieves in any meaningful manner. Some lost large sums of money, but that was to an extent the least of their concerns. At that time their hope was simply to escape unscathed.
Of course it is the most cowardly of crimes. It seems the thieves – perhaps just one gang – are deliberately targeting elderly people who they suspect may have substantial sums of money in their homes, unwilling or unused to lodging it in banks. On at least one occasion the thieves were armed with a gun, adding to the terror of their victims.
It was this sort of crime that outgoing Chief Constable Matt Baggott hoped that his force would be concentrating on when he put forward his community policing policies. But the dissident republican threat and flags and parades protests pushed those policies down the agenda. Now it seems that this type of robbery often goes virtually unnoticed outside of the area where it happens.
Yet it is a crime that strikes at the very heart of society. If we cannot protect our most vulnerable members then we are failing in our duty to provide a civilised environment in which to live.
We should not be condemning elderly people to wondering if every knock at the door is just a visit from a friendly neighbour or perhaps a thief in the night intent on robbing them and possibly causing them harm.
The community as a whole must join forces to help police apprehend these heartless villains who prey on the elderly.
Any scrap of information should be passed on and, as well, neighbours should keep a weather eye on elderly residents in the countryside.
The police should devote whatever resources are necessary to solve these crimes and press for the courts to pass exemplary sentences. It is time to terrorise the thieves.