Protecting the Vulnerable

The number of attacks on elderly people has increased dramatically over the last couple of years. It used to be the case that amongst rogues, it was the unwritten law that the elderly and infirm were immune from such attacks. Sadly, this is no longer the case.

I spent 15 years in the police as a uniformed officer and detective, my last posting being the Flying Squad at New Scotland Yard. I am now the chairman of Eurolink Security Installations Limited. My job now entails, to a certain degree, “bolting the stable door after the horse has bolted”, e.g. the installation of an alarm or locks after the theft.

In order to give advice you must first understand what you are dealing with. The term “mugger” is bandied about by all and sundry. The courts tend to be inadequate in their dealings with muggers. In fact, as a “mugger”, the offence is robbery as defined under Section 8 of the Theft Act 1968. An offender, in theory, risks the same term of imprisonment as a man who robs a bank. Until the courts act more responsibly and respond to the public demand for more stringent sentencing, the onus is on the individual to prevent such attacks.

All types of crime are on the increase. The result is that more pressure is being placed upon individual police officers to such an extent that they cannot investigate matters as thoroughly as they would like to. As a result, the Police Service has become burdened with excessive paperwork and the production of meaningless crime statistics.

The financial cuts have also affected the police. Is the theft of a few pounds from a pensioner worth hundreds of pounds in police overtime? The higher ranks in the police are obliged to say ‘no’ to the frustration of the junior ranks.

Elderly people can help themselves to prevent such attacks by following basic rules. If finances permit they should fix a safety chain to their front door and always use it. They should never allow anyone into their home before they are satisfied as to the identity of that individual. The representatives from the Gas Board, Water Board, British Telecom etc, all have identity cards, mostly with a photograph. They will not object to showing them. If in doubt, call the police.

The elderly should never allow the itinerant tradesman to talk them out of their life savings with words like “your roof looks a bit dodgy – we were working down the road and can fix it for £300″. If a tradesman is needed, go to a reputable one and always check references from previous clients. Each trade has a professional body that safeguards your interests. In the security industry, that body is The National Security Inspectorate (Tel: 08450 063303) or the SSAIB (Tel: 0191 2963242). My company is a member of both inspectorates as well as being ISO 9001 certified. Before instructing a security company check that they are registered as a NACOSS or SSAIB company.

Large sums of money should not be carried about or hidden in the house. Many people have been killed as a result of attacks by people who have heard the rumour that “Mrs Smith has £1,000 under the carpet”. True or untrue, the offender vents his anger on the victim when he fails to find the money or valuables. Do not deal with itinerant antique dealers – the type who drop a card through the door and call back the next day. £50 for that desk might sound tempting when the gas bill arrives, but I have known many cases where the true value is £5,000 or more. Again, deal only with reputable dealers.

Finally, take basic security precautions: secure your home. It is not expensive and could save a lot of heartache or injury.

My company offers a free risk assessment and advisory service and can be contacted on 01242 862711 or via the website at: www.eurolinksecurity.co.uk or alternatively, contact the local Crime Reduction Officer. By taking note of the aforementioned, the chances of becoming a victim will be significantly minimised.