Monday, June 18, 2007

Senior citizen abuse is a major problem


PINELLAS PARK Florida – Although June 15 each year officially marks Elder Abuse Awareness Day, the problem exists year-round.

Senior citizens are targets of scam artists of all kinds, thieves and even family members who take advantage of their aloneness, mental state and trust.

Just recently in Pinellas Park a 19-year-old man robbed his great-grandmother of money. That, after cleaning out her checking account and taking other possessions.

Another elderly woman was scammed out of her life savings, about $40,000, by a Canadian operation whose representatives demanded “fees” in order for her to receive a six-figure sweepstakes check that never arrived.

Many police departments employ victim advocates or, at the very least, civilian personnel or police officers who specialize in preventing and investigating crimes against aging citizens.

One of the more serious problems are the so-called “travelers,” roaming gangs of criminals who prey on all citizens, especially elders. These professional criminals are involved in identity theft and related crimes. Many are counterfeiters, scam artists, burglars and fugitives from Federal, state, county or local authorities.

Travelers roam all over the country to steal from their victims. During the winter months they come to Florida and other warm regions of the United States. This time of the year they can be found up north and out west working their scams that range from home repairs to more aggressive forms of criminal acts.

The purpose of Elder Abuse Day is to stress the need for everyone to understand what elder abuse is, how prevalent it is, and how it can be prevented,” said Gay Wiechec, victim advocate coordinator for the Area Agency on Aging of Pasco-Pinellas Inc.

Wiechec said people must focus their efforts to raise awareness of elder abuse in a coordinated fashion. She said people must explore and promote elder abuse awareness through cultural, educational, social and networking activities.

“That is needed in order to help people and entire communities understand that elder abuse can be prevented,” Wiechec said.

She said abuse and neglect of older persons goes largely unrecognized and untreated as an unspoken problem.

“No community is immune from this costly public health and human rights crisis,” Wiechec said. “All Floridians are urged to take an active role to resolve this issue.”

No comments: