To hear David Beveridge tell it, the country's quickest growing crime seldom involves guns or overt acts of violence.

With the nation's fastest growing population the 85 and older crowd, crimes against the elderly are increasing rapidly, particularly in the financial sector.

"The biggest problem we have is an understanding of the seriousness of the crime," Beveridge said in a presentation at the Tehama County Supervisors' chambers Tuesday afternoon with District Attorney Investigator Martin Perrone and representatives of financial institutions and law enforcement.

A coordinator for Passages Adult Resource Center, Beveridge works with Passages employees stationed at nursing homes and retirement communities to monitor the treatment of the elderly. Passages' efforts expand beyond that, however, as the group can investigate on behalf of the elderly.

For law enforcement to investigate a matter an agency needs probable cause. Passages can help provide enough information to begin that investigation. But the group needs law enforcement to take these matters seriously.

Beveridge cited a Paradise case in which a woman was illegally taking money from her grandmother's account. With written permission from the grandmother, Passages obtained records showing the illegal withdrawals. In speaking to the thief, she gave a confession that was recorded.

With the evidence in place, Beveridge submitted the case to the Paradise Police Department.But
the department did not act ,he said.

"I called up for the stats of the case, and it was inactive," Beveridge said.

A call to the California Attorney General changed that and the woman is now being prosecuted.

To help prevent situations like that one, Beveridge said bankers who see their elderly clients abruptly signing away large amounts of money or expressing interest in giving someone power of attorney get in touch with Passages, the District Attorney's office, the Department of Justice and local police.

Suspicious behavior includes a "new best friend" and reluctance to look the teller in the eye.

"We do not need anything more than a suspicion to file one of these things," he said. "If you even think someone is getting rolled, send it to me."

Instances in which someone wishes to assign power of attorney often involve someone unaware of what that means, he said.

"[I've] had people want to sign over deeds of trust when they don't know what century it is," he said.

Difficulties are also posed when the abuse is coming from a family member. Mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers may be reluctant to turn their children and grandchildren over to the law, even when those descendants have addiction problems or have taken most of the money.

The best advice is for the elderly to learn as much as they can about their finances and refuse to sign anything they do not understand, Beveridge said.

Because the information is so important to the elderly population, Perrone asks members of the public to call him at 529-3590 if they would like to attend a second presentation.

More information about Passages is available at or by calling 898-5923 or 1-800-822-0109.

Staff Writer Geoff Johnson can be reached at 527-2153, extension 114, or at