Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Senior Victims of Crime-an Interview with a Chief of Police

A couple of weeks ago I was sitting in the Dallas airport waiting for my flight to Anchorage (another story) with friends: an alum and her husband, who happens to be the chief of police of a smaller city near us.  So I asked him about crimes against the elderly in his town (hey I couldn't resist the opportunity to get a first-person account--and from a chief of police no less). 

He told me that they are seeing elders who are  victims of crimes and frauds, especially personal property thefts in certain kinds of housing for elders, and a growing number family issues.  For law enforcement, one problem that is particularly challenging involves solutions for elders with dementia who are "unbefriended" (no friends or family) and there are limited options for law enforcement to help. Oftentimes, he said,  the only option available to law enforcement is to pursue involuntary civil commitments because there doesn't appear to be services available for the elder.  This city has a fairly high population of retirees, and is significantly multi-cultural the Chief said. It's a historic and vibrant community.

When I asked him what three things would he want residents who are elderly to know to help them age safely he didn't hesitate and offered these thoughts:

  • Have a plan for your long term, get your legal papers in order (health care directives, DPOA, etc.)  and have a caregiver lined up for when help is needed;
  • Get someone who cares about you involved in your care;
  • Do your homework when choosing your housing and be careful with the security of your personal property

The Chief chatted about driving as an issue--which is a challenge for many cities in the U.S. Many smaller cities may offer very little public transportation. The Chief hoped that families would recognize that at some point the elder may need to stop driving.

Since it was getting close to boarding, we closed when the Chief told me an example of how policing and creativity can make a huge difference in an elder's life.  He related a conversation with one of his officers who had been stopped by an "older" gentlemen who needed directions to his home, which was not anywhere near them. The Chief instructed the officer to get more information and it turns out that the gentleman was definitely lost and this was his second day on the road. The Chief recognized that something in the story didn't make sense, so he and the officer intervened. They came up with a creative solution to get him home, as no family members were available to collect him. Since the gentleman had unlimited mileage through AAA, the police officer called AAA, and the tow truck operator towed the driver's car back to his home 2 hours away, while the gentleman happily rode shotgun in the tow truck.

Kudos to the department for helping this man safely home. We hope for this kind of creativity and pro-active assistance for everyone.

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