ELDERLY people in York and North Yorkshire are so terrified of crime, they are prisoners in their own homes, it was revealed today.

A national study by Age Concern showed that many middle-aged and elderly people try not to go out in the evening because they are afraid of being physically and verbally abused or attacked.

Sally Hutchinson, chief officer of Age Concern York, said their own survey of the elderly in Acomb, York, backed up the national survey and found that fear of crime was one of the reasons elderly people in that area were reluctant to go out.

She said: "The fear of people leaving their homes is a real concern and the fear of burglary is also something quite real. What we must do is make sure people feel safe in their own homes.

"Age Concern's security service offers elderly people a free security check to make sure their homes are safeguarded."

She said that elderly people in the city had expressed that a more visible police presence would make them less frightened about leaving their homes.

The national survey, which questioned 8,000 older people, is the largest-ever to look at the effect of fear of street crime on the elderly. Age Concern discovered that 47 per cent of people over 75 are too afraid to leave their homes at night.

Among people over the age of 50, 37 per cent said they stayed in at night through fear of street crime.

Updated: 11:35 Wednesday, May 21, 2003