May 10, 2013
By JoAnn Merrigan
Quite a few people in the audience were using walkers or relying on canes. Now in their "golden years" they're spending a day learning about crimes that victimize senior citizens.
Shalena Cook Jones is the elder abuse prosecutor at the Chatham County District Attorney's Office. She told seniors that 90 percent of violent crimes against persons 65 or older, are committed by someone the senior knows. She urged seniors to stay in touch with friends and neighbors, to have a circle of friends who will help. And she urged those friends to speak up and report the crime if the senior being hurt is too afraid. "But our system is only as good as the people who actually report these crimes, who see it on a daily basis," said Cook Jones. "And sometimes it's just too easy to turn your back to it so we must empower people."
Vernita Wilson took home that important piece of advice. "I learned to keep watching out for my neighbors and they can keep watching out for me," she told us.
Diedie Bonaparte and her friend Roberta Williams know physical crimes against people their age are increasing. "But what's startling is the acceptance of it," said Bonaparte. "And the idea from a senior that it has only happened once but may not happen again."
Bonaparte said it's not always about your safety, but your money. "I had a case where a family member tried to get me to put my house in their name," she said. "They told me it would be best for me. I doubt that."
Seniors who feel alone are assured they're not. The district attorney's office has an eye on crimes against the elderly. Shalena Cook Jones telling us that physical abuse can leave scars and must be reported by a medical professional for example. However, she says stealing a senior's money or scamming them can often be harder to detect. "Financial abuse, you could never know about until months and years have passed" she says. "I think the statistics say that something like $9 billion dollars a year of elder abuse money is being stolen from them every year. That's a huge industry of crimes we're not touch because we're not educated."
Cook Jones says seniors who are being hurt physically or who suspect someone of stealing their money should contact the police. She says to contact the Elder Abuse Division of the Chatham County District Attorney's Office, call 912-652-7308.
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