Victim’s fear: ‘I feel vulnerable in my own home’
FOR the first time since settling in the South Burnett 25 years ago, the Soutter family say they don't feel safe within their community, not to mention their very own home.
Maria Soutter, 64, had her handbag stolen last Wednesday, May 20 while she was visiting an Alford St residence, and says she has never felt more vulnerable and afraid.
"It happened sometime between 10.30am and midday," she said.
"I went to pick up my handbag to leave and realised it wasn't where I had put it down and immediately this feeling of panic started to wash over me.
"I soon realised someone had come into the house and stolen my bag, which contained my house and car keys, mobile phone, wallet, banking and personal documents with my address and ID. Everything you would need to track us down and take my car and get inside my house."
The longtime Wattle Camp resident said she's been unable to sleep knowing how easy it would be for the culprit to strike again.
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After caring for her husband for over 30 years, Mrs Soutter said she's struggling to stay afloat financially at the best of times but having her handbag stolen has put her in a tight situation.
"Every sound in the house has me up, I can't relax. I feel like I've lost my sense of security and dignity inside my own home. Knowing they have all my personal details is the most unsettling part. They could easily spot me downtown, or come to our home and break in.
"They must have seen me as an easy target. What's to stop them striking again?"
After losing her husband two years ago, Mrs Soutter said she's been doing it quite tough financially.
Having to replace her mobile phone, bank cards, driver's licence as well as find the couple of thousand dollars it will take to replace all of the house and car locks is going to be a large financial burden she didn't need.
Her daughter Kirsty says she feels disgusted someone would target an older woman and hopes the thief gets their comeuppance.
"It just makes me feel sick that someone out there would prey on and take advantage of an older woman like my mother," she said.
"She's always been the sort of person to help those less fortunate and if this person had asked her, she probably would have given them some cash to get some food or petrol.
"But now she has to replace everything … it's like being kicked in the guts when you're already down. I hope the thief gets what is coming to them.
"You shouldn't have to live in fear all the time, but these are the times we live in now. Kingaroy is not the small country town it used to be."
Officer in charge of the Kingaroy Police Station, Senior Sergeant Dave Tierney said when it comes to theft in the South Burnett, their message has always been to be more vigilant and secure with your property.
"Most, if not all of our stealing offences are what I would call sneaks or crimes of opportunity," he said.
"People leave doors unlocked while they are out or not in a position to hear someone knocking, or they leave valuables in plain site in unlocked cars, or just leave in plain view. Unsecured and unattended."
He wants to warn residents it is as simple as lock it or lose it.
"Yes, you should be able to leave your property unattended but unfortunately we no longer live in that world - we all need to start taking more responsibility, whether it is property or home, in cars or even businesses," he said.
"Unfortunately the way we report things would make people believe that there are break and enters occurring where windows or doors are kicked in or forced with crow bars but a break is simply opening a window and reaching in and grabbing something or opening an unlocked door.
"These are simply crimes of opportunity. There is a reason why someone buys a door with a lock or a window. My message is to use them and lock up all the time. At least try to make it harder for them."
Ms Soutter agrees, from now on she will be much more alert and is urging older residents to do the same.
"Be more aware of your surroundings and keep your possessions on you. It's unfortunate we have to live like this in a small country town, but it's better to be overly cautious than to end up in a situation where you become another victim of theft."
In the meantime if you happen to come across any of the following items in your travels, you can hand them into the Kingaroy Police Station:
- A large black womans handbag with multiple compartments
- A set of Toyota car keys with a big silver carabiner, old Civic Video store rental tag
- A large black zip up womans wallet
- A Huawei Nova 3i mobile phone in a greeny-blue case