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Violent Crime

Volume 448: debated on Thursday 6 July 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what measures are being taken to tackle violent crime against the elderly in Northern Ireland. (48279)

Older people in Northern Ireland are still the least likely group of citizens to become a victim of crime. However the recorded crime statistics for 2004-05 and 2005-06 to date would indicate that those persons aged 65 years and over are disproportionably affected by domestic burglary as a proportion of the population. It is also recognised that the fear of crime among older people is significant. To address these issues the Community Safety Unit of the Northern Ireland Office is currently leading on the development of a strategy for the safety of older people. It is planned to publish the draft strategy document for consultation in the autumn of 2006.

On a practical level the Unit has developed and funds a number of ongoing initiatives to tackle the problems of crime and the fear of crime amongst older people. These include the Unknown Callers TV advertising campaign which provides information to older people about answering the door to bogus callers and the Lock Out Crime Scheme that supplies and installs free of charge additional home security, in the form of door and window locks, door chains and viewers and external lighting to the homes of all those aged 65 and over who are in receipt of housing benefit or rate rebate. A mobile pilot Handy Van service was also launched on 27 March 2006 in the Greater Belfast area to fit free home security devices for the elderly who do not qualify for the LOC Scheme.

The police, in addition to offering free advice about personal security and personal attack alarms, have introduced Operation Bullent in the Downpatrick, Newry and Mourne, Craigavon, Banbridge, Armagh, Dungannon and South Tyrone, Fermanagh, Cookstown, Omagh, Strabane and Magherafelt districts. This project deals with the problem of travelling criminals who commit burglary offences, including those that involve violence, predominantly against persons over 65 years in these districts by co-ordinating their intelligence, investigations of crimes and delivery of preventative measures. I understand that this initiative has identified a number of persons who have been charged and are remanded in custody awaiting trial in relation to burglary offences against older people.

At community level, several of the Community Safety Partnerships (there is a partnership in each council area) after conducting a community audit, have included the safety of older people as a priority issue in their respective action plans to tackle crime. These plans have now been agreed with the Community Safety Unit and the partnerships are currently in the process of setting up their initiatives.