Protecting the elderly from crime
Last week, I welcomed the introduction of new targets for the PSNI aimed at reducing the number of crimes committed against older people. The new targets call for a 2% reduction in the number of domestic burglaries and robberies, as well as a 2% improvement in the outcome rates for older people.
It follows repeated calls from myself and others to respond to what appears to be a worrying increase in the number of crimes committed against older people.
Whilst the level of violent crime in which older people are victims is relatively low in Northern Ireland, it seems that barely a week goes by that we do not hear of an attack on an older person.
These attacks are shameful, and cause fear and distress to the victim, with research showing that crimes against older people can significantly and negatively impact on their quality of life, health and wellbeing.
This has a wider impact across the community, with fear of crime topping the poll at the Pensioners Parliament each year as members' biggest concern, highlighting the fact that not enough is being done to reassure older people.
And there is justification for this concern. An analysis of PSNI statistics carried out by my office found that crimes committed against older people are less likely to result in prosecution than crimes committed against people of any other age group.
Older people deserve to have confidence that if they are the victim of crime that they should expect the same chance of outcome as that of a younger person.
The introduction of specific targets is a welcome development, and shows a commitment by the Policing Board and PSNI to begin to take the issue seriously; but they can only have meaning if accompanied by action.
Targets will give focus to the issue, but actions will be the only measure of reducing crime against older people. The PSNI has a real opportunity and I hope that it will use this to make changes to the way it deals with older people.
Not only then can we expect to see a reduction in the level of crime committed against older people but with more offenders brought to justice, we can give older people the confidence they need and deserve that they are safe.
- Claire Keatinge is the Commissioner for Older People NI