Theft shocks Featherston man, 87

By Vomle Springford

An 87-year-old World War II veteran is distraught after coming home to find his Featherston house broken into and his television gone.

The burglary highlighted an issue in the town, particularly with youth, said Police Sergeant Kevin Basher.

People were starting to feel unsafe in their own homes now, said Patricia Parker, the 87-year-old man's sister and a Featherston resident of 23 years.

Mrs Parker said her brother was so distraught about the burglary, which happened last Thursday night, he didn't want to get out of bed.

"At 4 o'clock he went down to the RSA to meet a couple of mates for a drink, when he came back about 8 someone had forced the bathroom window open and stolen his TV," she said.

A "bad element" had been in the town before and now it was back, she said. The actions of some young people made many people feel unsafe and trapped.

"We are feeling like prisoners in our own homes now. Something is going on and it's getting worse," she said.

Featherston resident Richard Clark, whose home was burgled this year, said he didn't feel safe in his home. In March, Mr Clark, who has motor neuron disease, was out when thieves broke into his house and stole his computer and software.

"I don't feel safe here any more. I am alone during the day, I am confined to a wheelchair, I am attached to a breathing device 24/7. I can't defend myself."

Mr Clark said he knew at least six other people whose homes had been broken into recently.

Young people were out of control, he said.

No violence was involved in such incidents, Mr Basher said.

"The kids aren't violent, they are not confrontational."

Mrs Parker said the problem was caused by kids wagging school and wandering the streets. They were also not deterred by the consequences of burglaries.

Mrs Parker said she had caught a young boy stealing from a neighbour's house.

"He went to court and just got a slap over the wrist."

Mr Basher said actions police could take with youth included putting them before the court, family group conferences and warnings.

Solitaire Robertson, Featherston ward South Wairarapa District Councillor, said: "I feel gutted for anyone who has to go through the experience of having their possessions stolen. The police have such limited powers when it comes to young people, and the young people know this."

Ms Robertson said people needed to work together and keep an eye on their properties and their neighbours' properties.

Parents also needed to take responsibility.

"For me, personally, if a parent or other adult is aware that their child or a child in their care has stolen something and they choose to turn a blind eye to the theft, then they, in my opinion, are just as guilty as the offender."

She encouraged people to join the Featherston Community Patrol.

"We are a small group, and with more members there could be more patrols, and targeted patrols around key times."

Mr Clark said people needed to alert the police when anything happened, big or small.

"I was talking to a friend this morning who described some young gang-bangers giving him a hard time because he was wearing a certain colour. I asked him if he phoned the police - no," he said.

Last year, Featherston residents complained to the Times-Age about a gang of kids stealing from them and vandalising.

- Wairarapa Times-Age

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