Community Outreach Spotlight
Safeguarding Senior Communities
Submitted by Officer Justin Simmons of the Abington, Massachusetts, Police Department.
The Abington, Massachusetts, Police Department (APD) continues to live up to its foundation of community partnership. APD serves 17,000 residents, 13 percent over the age of 65. The community itself has a thriving senior center that works to support and offer resources to the elderly. In addition, there exist at least three senior housing centers, with plans for further development. Through officer interaction at these locations and discussions about fraud, APD looks to protect this vulnerable population with tools to guard against theft and other abuse.
To address this issue, officers started Fraud Talks or Your Money Could Walk, an informational session targeted at seniors. They use the seminar as a chance to speak formally, but also offer coffee and donuts and engage in casual discussions with the community afterward.
The need for development of senior services only will increase as more baby boomers leave the workforce by 2030. This progression also means a growing population of potential victims and new advances in technology for criminals. APD looks to provide targeted victims with the most comprehensive information available regarding theft and exploitation through small events in the senior community. Officers discuss a range of topics, from recent trends in telephone scams to investment fraud.
Fraudsters often target senior citizens because of their “nest eggs,” or life savings. Seniors most likely have owned homes, established credit, and developed their net worth. They also may be targeted for their sustainable revenue, such as social security or retirement benefits. This potentially could have devastating effects not only for victims but also for communities that support low-income older adults.
The senior citizen population is at risk of financial and sometimes physical exploitation. Programs such as APD’s can become personal because they provide seniors with thought-provoking information on how to safeguard their finances, well-being, health, and families. These discussions consist of short talks in which officers speak on various subjects to a group of 50 to 60 seniors.
Speakers are brief but present data relevant to seniors. They also explain how these scams work and why many fall victim. Officers describe the traumatic experiences of unnamed victims and outline signs of exploitation for the elderly. The aim is not only to provide quality information to safeguard the community but also to offer conversation starters for seniors to discuss with officers and each other.
Older individuals commonly fall victim to telephone scams, like false IRS, social security, or telemarketing phone calls. Often, humble customs or traditions of older victims allow this practice to continue. Thus, seniors must harden themselves against criminals. Due to their age, many also may suffer from deteriorating conditions. Identifying such individuals can help to inform and protect them.
By engaging in this grassroots outreach to the community, APD may identify victims who less likely would report the matter. Sharing stories of unnamed victims helps individuals understand that they are not the only ones scammed or exploited. APD’s work also strengthens the community, in which members look to protect each other from fraud. Many seniors will share information by simple word of mouth.
Financial fraud is not the only danger officers must warn seniors about. APD also shares horror stories of romance scams, Medicare fraud, and abuse from a caretaker—the most prevalent but least reported abuse. Offering information on the signs of different forms of elder exploitation and abuse can help members of the community recognize and report them. By holding these discussions, APD hopes for a reduction in the number of victims in this population.
This is only one way APD seeks to connect with the citizens it serves. Each day, officers in this agency and elsewhere exceed the high standards demanded of law enforcement. As often as officers respond to traumatic events, seek justice, and provide service to citizens, they also must engage in this proactive and education-based community policing. Their purpose is not only to protect vulnerable victims from the types of fraud and exploitation discussed but also to engage with them before the devastation of elder abuse, living out the APD commitment to serve as a community partner.
For additional information, contact Officer Simmons at firstname.lastname@example.org.