OAP crime: Elderly offences hit 3-year high

Joseph McGorman attacked Benedicta McLean in her home with a knife

Joseph McGorman attacked Benedicta McLean in her home with a knife

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HUNDREDS of elderly criminals – some as old as 90 – have been arrested for a string of serious crimes, including housebreaking, firearms possession and drug dealing.

Pensioner crimes hit a three-year high in 2013, with more than 600 offences recorded across Lothian as welfare charities suggest soaring levels of poverty may be to blame.

Road traffic violations account for around half of recorded crime within the last year, while over-65s were arrested for 13 sex offences including an indecent assault on a young child.

There were also 61 shoplifting incidents – nearly double the previous year – two cars stolen, and 20 incidents of theft from vehicles.

Elderly crooks were arrested for two housebreakings in August 2010 and March 2011, with one business broken into in January last year.

Today, older people’s charities said providing adequate pensions could help prevent some from “turning to crime to make ends meet”.

Greg McCracken, policy officer for Age Scotland, said: “The increase in crimes carried out by older offenders across the Lothians reflects a similar trend in other parts of the world where there is a rapidly ageing population and rising inflation.

“Of course, there are career criminals who are not immune to the ageing process. However, some criminologists have suggested that increasing pensioner poverty, the breakdown of the extended family and a lack of professional help for those with depression and other mental illnesses are all contributory factors in this increase.”

Elderly people were arrested for 501 offences in 2010-11 and 423 crimes in 2011-12.

Iain Whyte, former police board convener of Lothian and Borders Police, said just as workforces were retiring later, career criminals may also be operating into their twilight years.

He said: “As people live longer and are healthier into later life they are working longer in most parts of the community, but maybe criminals are active longer as well.

“The other main thing is that over the last few years – and particularly following the Jimmy Savile revelations – there have been a lot more reporting of historic sexual crimes, and some of the people who perpetrated those crimes are now much older and the police will be tracking them down and charging them.”

He added: “I’m very much surprised at some of the types of crime they have committed, particularly things like housebreaking, which you wouldn’t imagine someone that age would be getting up to. It seems like the kind of thing that would be more likely from younger criminals.”