Belfast Telegraph

Burglar caught red-handed... yet two months on still no police investigation

By Deborah McAleese

A former policeman has told how two months after a creeper burglar was captured on camera outside his home, officers have still failed to act.

The retired officer gave the PSNI CCTV footage of a man attempting to enter his home, his car and a number of neighbours' properties.

Despite a neighbourhood officer claiming to recognise the culprit as a prolific offender, eight weeks later police have still failed to arrest him for questioning.

The ex-officer, who served 30 years in the police, yesterday lodged a complaint with the Police Ombudsman about the PSNI's "abysmal" response. He also warned that incidents like this can severely damage public confidence in the PSNI.

"I don't know if this is a case of neglect of duty or plain ineptitude, but if people accept this abysmal approach to deal with crime things will only get worse," he said.

The man's concerns come a day after the Belfast Telegraph revealed how it took officers almost a week to pick up vital photographic evidence from the scene of a burglary in the Stranmillis area of south Belfast.

Photographs of a suspected burglar leaving the crime scene were taken last Saturday by writer Malachi O'Doherty who then offered them to investigating officers. However, police failed to ask for the images until the Belfast Telegraph contacted them to enquire why they had not been requested.

Policing Board member Jonathan Craig said that Chief Constable George Hamilton has tough questions to answer about the PSNI's response to everyday crimes that cause great concern to the public.

"Here are two cases where police are handed evidence and are not doing their job. This is not good enough. This is how public confidence is lost," said Mr Craig.

The ex-officer, whose camera captured the creeper burglar in the Ravenhill Road area of south Belfast at 2am on February 18, provided officers with the footage later that day.

In the footage, the culprit could be seen attempting to enter a number of nearby properties, before walking into the man's driveway and trying to open his car.

He left the scene a short time later empty-handed.

When police failed to contact him about the images, he brought the footage to his local neighbourhood policing team. One of the officers told him he recognised the culprit, that he knew his name, where he lived, his offending history and had details of how he broke into houses.

However, a month later, when there was no movement with the case, he contacted police again, only to be told that the neighbourhood officer did not want to make a witness statement to say that he could identify the offender in the footage.

"There have been a number of burglaries in the area in recent months. We know of at least two that occurred a few days after this man was caught on camera. We handed the police photographic evidence of a prolific offender and the officer appeared uninterested, bordering on dismissive," he said.

The former officer added: "I don't know if it is an inability to do the job, that officers are not being trained well enough to identify evidence when they see it, or if it is a lack of interest. But this is damaging to public confidence in the police. They will be reluctant to contact them to report crime or to offer evidence."

Detective Inspector Michelle Griffin said: "Police received a report at approximately 9.27am on February 19 about suspicious activity in east Belfast.

"However, where a complaint has been made to the Office of the Police Ombudsman it would be inappropriate for police to comment any further."

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Read more:

Burglar caught on camera - but photos didn't interest the PSNI, until the Belfast Telegraph called

Why so few burglaries are solved 


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