COMMUNITY and political representatives are urging older people to be vigilant in the run-up to Christmas after a mobile phone image was released of what appears to be a group of criminals organising burglaries online.
The disturbing image was posted on Facebook on Tuesday. It comes after attempted break-ins at a number of houses in the St James’ Place and St James’ Garden areas of West Belfast at the weekend.
Local people have said that the named youths taking part in the conversation are well-known to the community as being involved in crime and anti-social behaviour.
The conversation reads: “Few c***s leave the doors unlocked around Cavendish St look for older targets as they leave keys lyin (sic) about, check handles”
Speaking to the Andersons-town News, Breige Brownlee,, Chair of St James’ Forum and Policing and a Community Safety Partnership member, said: “We are urging all of our residents, especially our elderly and vulnerable residents, to be on their guard.
“Keep your doors and windows locked, these people are opportunists so the simple message is don’t give them any opportunities.
“A lot of our elderly residents remember the days when you could go out and leave your front door unlocked, unfortunately those days are over. The fact is that out of every 15 burglaries 11 are due to unlocked doors and windows, it’s a sorry state of affairs when you have to keep your front door locked twenty four seven.”
Breige added: “St James’ Forum have a limited number of ‘Beat the Burglar’ packs as well as personal alarms which we will be distributing to our older residents over the coming days. It’s clear that these vermin are targeting our elderly people so it’s important that we as a community rally around and check on our neighbours.”
In the wake of the Facebook post, Fra McCann MLA, Councillor Jim McVeigh and MP for West Belfast Paul Maskey issued a joint letter, which will be distributed to residents in the Lower Falls area. It reads: “We would like to draw your attention to a recent number of burglaries and attempted burglaries in the Cavendish/Clonard area.
“We would like to stress the importance of ensuring your property is secure when you go to bed or leave the house. Statistics show that the majority of burglaries are opportunistic and take place through unlocked doors and open windows.
“Please lock your doors and windows. Keep keys and Christmas presents out of sight.
“We urge you to particularly look out for neighbours who would be more vulnerable than yourselves.
“The PSNI have agreed to increase patrols in the area.
“If you do see anything or anyone acting suspicious we would encourage you to contact the PSNI.
“Please do not hesitate to contact our office on 028 90508989 if you wish to discuss this issue or any other issue.”
A spokesperson for the PSNI said: “Our aim is to ensure that everyone enjoys a safe and peaceful festive season, with your help.
“You will see us out and about over the coming weeks as we increase our footprint to deter criminals and encourage everyone to behave responsibly. Unfortunately some criminals see the pre-Christmas season as the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the unsuspecting public.
“It is important to remember that while you’re out shopping, so are they!
“Protect yourself against theft and burglary by locking all your doors and windows. Remove all your valuables from sight – both at home and in your vehicle – and remain vigilant to suspicious activity.
“We are here to help so if you need us over the coming weeks, just phone 101. Wishing all of you a very safe and peaceful Christmas,” added police.