Co-operate with police, not vigilantes to beat crime against elderly

South and East Belfast Alliance Party Councillors, Geraldine Rice and Naomi Long, met with senior police this morning to discuss recent attacks on the elderly in the city.

The councillors arranged the meeting following the death of an 82-year-old woman in Belvoir two weeks ago after she was robbed. Alliance discussed with PSNI officers what measures could be taken to inform older people of the risks they face and how they can increase personal security.

Both councillors expressed grave concerns about the emergence of vigilante groups after the death of Mary Thompson on February 6.

Cllr Long said: “Over the past few months, there has been a growing number of attacks and robberies on the elderly across Belfast. We have seen them in Cregagh, Minnowburn, Ardcarn and Orangefield, culminating in the tragic death of Mrs Thompson in Belvoir.

“Today we were seeking to find out what more can be done to inform older people of the risks posed by would-be attackers and encourage them to take steps to help protect themselves.

“We would urge everyone, and particularly pensioners, to be careful about opening their door to anyone they don’t know. They should never let any strangers into their home without asking for identification. A genuine caller will carry official ID that normally includes a photo and phone number and they will not mind waiting until you make checks.

“Just asking for ID may well be enough to scare off potential robbers.”

Councillor Rice added: “Alliance would like to see co-ordinated efforts by the PSNI to spread their safety campaign into the community, working with different groups and letting people know what help is available. The police can also visit homes to provide personal advice.”

“Simple precautions like door chains and spy holes are cheap and worthwhile.”

Cllr Rice said that vigilante groups were not an answer to the problem, and encouraged the public only to join official neighbourhood watch schemes that co-operate with the police.

“Whilst such groups might appear to offer a short-term fix, in the long run they are uncontrollable and as unacceptable as those who carried out the original offence. If anyone does have information, it should be passed on to the PSNI.”


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