Disabled 'trapped by fear of crime'

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The Independent Online
DISABLED people are three times more likely to be attacked in their own homes than their able-bodied neighbours. They are also more likely to fall victim to street crime or harassment.

A council survey, believed to be the first to look in detail at the physically disabled as crime victims, found that two-thirds were trapped in their homes at night, too frightened to venture out after dark.

Tricksters were more likely to target and con their way into the homes of the disabled, who are at greater risk of break-ins and burglaries; and more than half of those questioned said that they had been physically attacked by someone they knew.

In one case, a 91-year-old woman unable to walk and living alone, had taken up a neighbour's offer to do her shopping. But the neighbour returned with a stranger and both forced the woman on to her bed and stole her entire savings of pounds 83.

The report is likely to further embarrass the Government, which is already under pressure over rising crime. It revealed that crime is of more concern to the disabled than employment, housing or education.

Yesterday, Barry Sheerman, Labour's spokesman on disability, described the report as 'absolute dynamite', and urged the Home Secretary to act immediately to help the disabled lead safer lives.

The survey by Hammersmith and Fulham Council in west London involved questionnaires from 5,500 householders and detailed interviews with 195 people suffering from a variety of disabilities, including mental illness. Half of them were over 60, 26 per cent were from ethnic minority groups and 44 per cent lived in local authority housing.

The report concludes: 'Disabled people appear to be at greater risk of certain crimes than the rest of the population; and not only are they likely to suffer financial hardship from such crimes, but are more vulnerable to being attacked.'