Statistically older people in Northern Ireland are still the least likely group of citizens to become a victim of crime. However over the past couple of years there has been a disproportional increase in domestic burglaries committed against those aged 65 years and over as a proportion of the population. It is also recognised that the fear of crime among older people is significant.
The Community Safety Unit of the Northern Ireland Office has developed and funds the Lock Out Crime Scheme (LOCs) which supplies and installs free of charge additional home security in the form of door and window locks, door chains and viewers, and external front and rear door lighting to the homes of all those aged 65 and over who are in receipt of housing benefit or a rate rebate.
Since the launch in May 2004 up until 3 June 2006, 52,688 letters have been issued and 16,087 individuals have so far returned forms and have been admitted to the scheme. Since that date a further 4,361 letters of offer have been issued for which registration is on-going.
In addition on 27 March 2006 I launched a mobile pilot handy van service in the Greater Belfast area. This service, which is being managed by Help the Aged, fits free additional home security measures for those older people who do not qualify for the LOC Scheme. There is also the Unknown Callers TV Advertising campaign aimed at providing information to older people about answering the door to bogus callers. This advert was screened for a total of six weeks during 2005.
The police offer free advice about home security and personal attack alarms to older people and several of the Community Safety Partnerships (there is a partnership in each district council area) have included the safety of older people as a priority issue in their action plans for tackling crime. These plans have now been agreed with the Community Safety Unit and the Partnerships are currently in the process of setting up their projects.
Finally, the police have established a special team to co-ordinate the investigations of attacks upon older people across the Downpatrick, Newry and Mourne, Craigavon, Banbridge, Armagh, Dungannon and South Tyrone, Fermanagh, Cookstown, Omagh, Strabane and Magherafelt districts. I understand that this initiative has identified a number of persons who have been charged and are remanded in custody awaiting trail in relation to burglary offences against older people.