Stoke Retirement Village residents have been told to put steering wheel braces on their cars to ward off thieves. Photo: Sara Hollyman.

Break-ins leave retirement village residents ‘on edge’

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Residents of a Stoke retirement village are feeling “fearful and vulnerable” after a recent spate of vehicle break-ins.

Four vehicles at the Stoke Retirement Village were broken into on the night of Monday April 29 and earlier this month more cars were targeted.

Now they have been told they should be putting steering wheel braces in their cars.

One elderly resident, who does not wish to be named, says the damage to her vehicle was so severe that she has been without her car for more than three weeks. This has left her relying on others to help her get around.

The break-in came at the worst possible time for the resident, coming after a lengthy hospital stay earlier this year and now having a relative fighting a serious illness.

“It just about broke me altogether, if it wasn’t for the people in the village that have been helping, I don’t know where I’d be. My nerves are shot.”

She says the offenders targeted older model vehicles, smashing the rear windows in all four cars to gain access but, so far, no one has been apprehended.

Police told her to collect the broken pieces of the window without touching them. But they never collected them and later told her that because the doors had been opened to atmospheric conditions it would be impossible to remove any fingerprints.

“I don’t think it’s been taken seriously. Theft of belongings, unless it’s on your person, seems to be quite low on the priority list.”

A police spokesperson says that part of their investigation included reviewing CCTV footage.

The resident says that the footage apparently shows three people coming into the village, which borders the Railway Reserve, wearing hooded jumpers with scarves across their faces. She has been told they were also wearing gloves.

The woman received a letter from police which reads: “After looking at all the available evidence we have not been able to find out who is responsible. Unless more information or evidence is found, we can’t proceed any further with this case.”

Victim support was also offered.

She says one good thing that’s come out of the ordeal is being reminded of the kindness of others.

“One of the other residents who had their car damaged got a knock at the door afterwards. They were handed an envelope with the exact amount of money to cover their insurance excess by a person who they had not known very long. They said something along the lines of ‘we can spare it and know it’ll help you’. There are some very special people out there.”

She says people are frightened and a lot of people are “really on edge”.

“This is a retirement village, this is old people, a lot with disabilities and other issues and something needs to be done.”

A spokesperson for Oceania Healthcare, which owns Stoke Retirement Village, says they take the concerns and residents’ security “very seriously”.

General manager of villages Jill Birch says the organisation is doing everything it can to make the residents safe and working with police.

This included offering information evenings and also following up on recommendations from police on how to make residents’ property safer.