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Friday, 13 September, 2002, 14:23 GMT 15:23 UK
Victims of crime 'violated'
Ransacked bedroom
The all too common scene that victims of burglary find
For the BBC's Cracking Crime day on Wednesday 18 September, some of the people who have been victims of crime in Northern Ireland tell of their experience.

Robbery can be as traumatic as rape - that's the view of single mother, Paula, who lives with her young son and daughter on Northern Ireland's north coast.

They returned after a weekend away to find their home ransacked.

Now they live on their nerves where unexpected sounds can shock and startle.

"I felt totally violated," said Paula. "When I saw the mess and destruction, I was absolutely distraught.

Children need to feel safe and secure in their own homes - if that goes, a little bit of innocence is lost for ever

Burglary victim
"I can only equate it to rape."

Her briefcase, handbag and laptop were ripped open.

"The thought of personal papers, such as notes from the kids, being rifled is heartbreaking."

But it is her 10-year-old son who is worst affected.

Now reluctant to go upstairs, he is convinced he can continually hear intruders on the ground floor.

When he goes to sleep the nightmares begin.

He dwells on the knowledge his personal space has been invaded, and is plagued by knowing a stranger has been poking about his bedroom, meddling with his Playstation.

'Innocence lost'

He now sleeps most nights at his grandmother's home.

"Children need to feel safe and secure in their own homes - if that goes, a little bit of innocence is lost for ever," said his mother.

But it could have been worse. The raiders were disturbed by a neighbour whose baby-minder alarm picked up the noise they were making.

For another couple, it was also the worst possible end to a holiday break.

Burglar breaking into house
Some items are stolen 'to order'
Sarah and Noel Ashfield, who live on the fringes of Belfast, returned to find the back door of their home ajar; belongings strewn across the floor.

It quickly sank in - they had been burgled.

A range of electrical goods was gone and, strangely, the spoons and spice racks.

So, too, were items of irreplaceable sentimental value.

"We had jewellery which has been handed down from generation to generation.

"With these lost it is a link gone for ever," said Sarah Ashfield.

Things may have been stolen to order.

Mrs Ashfield added: "They knew exactly what they wanted. Heavy objects such as the television were not touched."


Police said the burglars probably struck during the day, making several trips to a getaway vehicle.

Being spotted did not pose a problem. The Ashfield home is overlooked by four other houses.

Apparently the raiders relied on anyone watching thinking they were legitimate workmen.

Ian Paisley Jnr
Ian Paisley Jnr: Concerned at rising crime
Political responsibility for countering crime in Northern Ireland rests with the Policing Board.

One of its members, Ian Paisley Jnr, wants more money for the police service and more police officers.

"Statistics point to a decreasing clear-up rate. I am very worried over the climbing crime rates.

"Politicians must use their influence to ensure the police service is properly resourced to tackle the situation," he told BBC News Online.

Until police commanders get more resources everyone is vulnerable

Paul Stewart
Police liaison committee
His remarks were echoed by community worker Paul Stewart who heads the Dromara, Drumlough and Annahilt police liaison committee in County Down.

"Some crimes now being committed are beyond imagination," he said.

"Until police commanders get more resources everyone is vulnerable.

"Elderly people living in the countryside, in particular, are being targeted, and until more resources are committed they will continue to live in fear.

"And the law must be straightened so that criminals are properly punished," he added.

A police officer in the front line admitted resources are stretched.

Station Sergeant in Hillsborough, Dromara and Moira Michael Patton said this had impacted on the rural communities which, up until now, had had a reasonable amount of cover.

"Police in rural areas have, by and large, had a close relationship with the bulk of the local community.

"And the inability to take a pro-active stance against crime has an impact on police officers as well as the victims of crime.

"It demoralises them.

"This has had a profound effect from the ground up and the frustration felt by police commanders because they are unable to get sufficient resources is felt across the country.

"We've been told that with Patten there would be pain and gain, but all we've felt so far is pain."

More stories of people who have been affected by crime will be featured on BBC Cracking Crime day - 18 September.

If you have a story to tell about how crime has had an impact on your life - and perhaps how others can learn from it - get in touch with our Cracking Crime team right away.

Call us on 02890 338394 to tell us your story.

Write to: Crime Day, BBC Northern Ireland, Broadcasting House, Ormeau Avenue, Belfast BT2 8HQ.

Or use this form to e-mail your response.

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16 Sep 02 | N Ireland
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