A rising fear of crime among Northern Ireland elderly sparks call for tougher action
The Commissioner for Older People has called for a greater effort to bring people to justice for crimes against the elderly.
Eddie Lynch wants to see a greater deterrent for the thugs after research revealed that almost half of older people here have become more fearful of falling victim to crime in the last two years.
The statistic was the key finding in a study carried out by the Northern Ireland Pensioners Parliament.
Mr Lynch said: "I'm saddened by the findings of the NI Pensioners Parliament.
"While the actual level of attacks and burglaries against older people is relatively low, each incident is traumatic for the victim and causes fear among the wider population.
"I want older people to be able to go about their daily lives without feeling afraid.
"I also want older people to be assured that if they are the victim of a crime, justice will be served.
"I would like to see higher levels of convictions against the perpetrators of such crimes, as this could act as a powerful deterrent to would-be offenders, increasing confidence among older people and reducing the fear of crime."
While crimes against the elderly may have been falling - the latest PSNI figures show that in just 7% of all crimes in 2016/17 the victim was over 60 - there have been several high-profile incidents in recent months.
In March Kilkeel pensioner Clifford Mooney was beaten, gagged and tied up by three men at his home during a 45-minute ordeal. There have been no arrests.
And in January this year Pat Davidson (83) was badly injured after jumping from a window while trying to flee four men who broke into her home in Aughnacloy.
Valerie Adams from Age Sector Platform said: "We know that the number of crimes committed against older people is relatively low, but fear among the older population is still a problem that needs to be tackled on an ongoing basis.
"When an older person becomes a victim of crime it can have a much longer lasting effect on them and older people within their local community.
"Anything we can do to help older people protect themselves from becoming victims in the first place will be time well spent."
The report has prompted an update and relaunch of the Stormont-backed Feel Safe guide for older people.
It's unique in that it has been developed for older people by older people and features crime prevention advice on everything from burglary to internet crime; information on what to expect from the police, and details of organisations that support older people who feel fearful or have become victims of crime.
Permanent secretary of the Department of Justice Nick Perry said: "We strive to have a community where everyone respects the law and each other. The work of organisations such as Age Sector Platform helps us in our aim."
PSNI Chief Superintendent Simon Walls added: "We understand and acknowledge the fear of crime in our communities, particularly among those who may be more vulnerable.
"We are committed to doing everything we can to prevent and reduce the number of crimes committed against older persons and to support victims through effective investigation and by bringing offenders to justice."
Linda Robinson, chief executive of Age NI, added: "Age NI is here to support any older person who has concerns about their safety.
"Anyone can call our expert advisers on 0808 808 7575 for free and confidential advice.".