Friday, April 6, 2007

Getting tough on elder abuse

By Thomas Tracy New York

To all of the disreputable criminals out there: your practice of preying on senior citizens just got a bit tougher.

The New York State Senate last week passed a bill that would subject anyone convicted of harming a senior citizen with increased jail time.

The bill, which is currently being mulled over by the Assembly, would turn any assault against a senior citizen over the age of 70 into a class D or E felony, which carries a penalty of seven years of prison time.

Currently, those who attack anyone – including senior citizens — during the course of a robbery face a misdemeanor offense that usually carries a penalty of one year in prison.

Those responsible for abusing elderly Brooklynites usually face minimal time unless some form of intent can be proven, officials said.

The bill was spearheaded by Bay Ridge State Senator Marty Golden following the March attack on 101-year-old Queens resident Rose Morat by a deranged mugger during a robbery in her own apartment building.

Golden and members of the Senate Majority Task Force on Critical Choices drafted the legislation after they discovered that anyone who attacks a frail senior citizen faces the same penalties as if he laid hands on a strapping 25-year-old football player.

Sadly, senior citizens are frequently targeted by thieves because they are usually unable to put up much of a fight, Golden said.

“It absolutely sickens me to know that a criminal would target a senior citizen to commit such a violent attack,” Golden said. “Senior citizens should be able to feel safe on their streets and in their own neighborhoods.”

“Criminals, cowards to be more exact, need to know that if they target and assault a senior citizen, they will go to jail for a long, long time,” Golden added. “Having these menaces to society roaming our streets endangers the quality of life of all New Yorkers.”

While an exact figure wasn’t available since crime statistics aren’t catalogued by the victims’ ages, police believe that dozens of senior citizens have been attacked during robberies over the last year.

These numbers, however, may be incomplete, since many crimes against senior citizens are never reported.

In February, two women — one 81, the other 89 – were attacked during two separate purse snatchings in Sheepshead Bay, officials said.

In one of the robberies, dated February 1, the purse snatcher “wrestled” his 89-year-old victim to the ground at the corner of Avenue V and East 19th Street at 11:20 a.m. on February 1 before running off with her bag. The senior suffered a sprained knee as a result.

Besides seniors over 70, Golden’s bill will help those age 60 or older “who suffers from a disease or infirmity associated with advanced age.”

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