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Tuesday, 17 September, 2002, 21:16 GMT 22:16 UK
Burglary not a high priority for police
Burglar breaking into home
Burglary mostly an opportunistic crime
Domestic burglaries in Northern Ireland are on the increase - and there's a 90% chance the culprits will never be caught.

The latest figures show house break-ins running at a rate of almost 9,000 a year and the huge pressures on police resources are having an impact.


I have to say that burglary would take a back seat compared to robbery or major assaults

Sam Harkness Detective Inspector

In Ballymena - which has the sixth worst rate for burglaries in Northern Ireland - the detective team is less than half the size it once was.

"We're running on five detectives where there used to be 14," said Detective Inspector Sam Harkness. "I have to say that burglary would take a back seat compared to robbery or major assaults.

"The knock-on effect comes when we have to prioritise crime and I have to say that burglary would take a back seat compared to robbery or major assaults."

Victim four times

The hotspot for this category of crime is Belfast - particularly in the south of the city - where it is three times more likely for a home to be broken into than in the lowest risk area, Magherafelt, County Londonderry.

But the only statistic that matters to 60-year-old Gerry Downey is that he has been a victim four times.
Gerry Downey: Has been a victim four times
Gerry Downey: Has been a victim four times

Cash, electrical items and his car have all been taken.

"The first time is the worst. There's a sense of violation of your space. After that there's anger," says Mr Downey from Londonderry.

After installing deadlocks, he is now thinking about an alarm.

"It's not very pleasant having this feeling of vulnerability in your home. It's bad enough outside but now you have that feeling when you go to bed at night."

Part of the problem facing the police is that burglary, by their own admission, is a relatively easy crime to commit.

Little evidence

In many cases it is opportunistic and that lack of pre-planning works to the criminal's advantage.

"No planning means fewer people know it's to take place and members of the public can't tell us what they don't know," says DI Harkness.

DI Sam Harkness:
DI Sam Harkness: "We're running on five detectives where there used to be 14"
"Also, generally speaking, burglars don't leave much evidence behind."

This is borne out by low PSNI clear-up rates for domestic burglaries - only 9% of cases are cleared.

Police say there is an onus on householders to better protect their properties and on the public to provide information.

And even if you are not a direct victim there is still a price to pay - in the form of increased insurance premiums.

British Insurance Brokers' Association spokesman Chris Parsons said police crime data was scrutinised for every area postcode in Northern Ireland.

"Premiums will be looked at if theft increases in those areas," he predicted.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC NI's Julian O'Neill:
"The latest figures show house break-ins running at a rate of almost 9,000 a year"

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13 Sep 02 | N Ireland
18 Sep 02 | N Ireland
16 Sep 02 | N Ireland
16 Sep 02 | N Ireland
16 Sep 02 | N Ireland
26 Jul 02 | Europe
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