Crime Prevention for Seniors
Senior Crime Prevention
Seniors currently comprise 4.5 percent of the population of California. Seniors are enjoying longer, healthier lives, and by the year 2020, 16 percent of California's population will be 60 years of age or older. Seniors often worry about crime. The truth is, seniors are victims of crime less often than younger people, but the effect of crime on seniors is often more severe. Additionally, seniors are faced daily with the problems of elder abuse, fraud and crimes in convalescent homes.
Three general rules to promote senior crime prevention are:
- Stay Alert! Be tuned-in to your surroundings; don't be taken by surprise. Be aware and prepared, even in your own neighborhood.
- Stand Tall! Walk confidently, don't show fear, don't look like a victim.
- Trust you instincts! If you feel uncomfortable in a place or situation, leave right away and get help if necessary.
These rules will help you develop a "crime prevention" attitude. Also, the following are some specific crime prevention tips that may apply in your lives. These crime prevention tips are meant to protect you, your possessions and your income.
Never open the door to strangers; always insist on proper identification.
If someone comes to your door with an emergency (for example, a traffic accident or an injury), DON'T LET HIM OR HER IN! Call 9-1-1 for them!
Secure Your Home
- Use deadbolt locks on all exterior doors. Always keep your doors locked. Have a peephole in the door so you can see a caller without opening it.
- Don't rely on security chains; a determined assailant can easily break them.
- Protect windows and other points of entry with good locks or other security devices (such as a length of wooden doweling placed in a track to prevent a window or sliding glass door from opening). Mark and record your personal property.
- When you go out, make your home sound and appear occupied by using an automatic timer to turn on interior lights and a radio. Keep the outside premises well lit at night.
- Do not leave your key under the mat or in a flowerpot. Use outdoor lighting, shrubbery and fencing to help secure your home.
- Consider electronic surveillance systems, alarm systems and/or a dog to enhance your home security. Consult with your Area Senior Lead Officer for personalized home security tips.
If you believe you have been swindled, call the police, your State or local Consumer Affairs Office, the District Attorney's Office, or your State Attorney General. Con artists count on the reluctance of their victims to acknowledge they have been tricked. Don't delay, report them right away. If you never report the incident, con artists will cheat again and again.
In Your Car
- Know where you are going and how to get there;
- Maintain your vehicle in good working order, with ample gasoline;
- Plan your trip and take friends along;
- When possible, travel during daylight hours;
- Don't enter dark parking lots or deserted garages;
- Leave only your ignition key with parking attendant;
- Let someone know where you are going and your planned return time;
- When driving, lock your doors and windows; lockup when you leave;
- If you suspect someone is following you, drive to the nearest public place; and
- Never pick up hitchhikers.
- When using a bus or subway, plan your route. Use busy, well-lit transportation stops;
- Wait near the attendant's stand;
- Keep your belongings in your lap, not on the seat next to you;
- Don't carry a purse if you can avoid it; tuck money or credit cards into an inside pocket;
- Sit near the driver but not next to the door; and
- Stay awake!
Using Automated Teller Machines (ATM)
- Go inside your bank;
- Go during daylight hours;
- Choose a busy ATM location;
- Take a friend with you;
- Preplan your transaction;
- Put your money away quickly;
- Don't flash your cash;
- If someone offers to let you go ahead of him or her at the ATM machine, decline and leave;
- If someone approaches your car at the drive through ATM, roll up your window and leave;
- If you begin to feel uncomfortable during a transaction, press CANCEL, get your card, and leave; and
- If possible, arrange for incoming checks to be deposited directly into your bank account.
If You Are a Victim of a Crime
- Don't resist;
- Never pursue your attacker;
- Call the police. Dial 9-1-1 in case of an emergency; and
- REPORT CRIME! You may have money returned and prevent further theft from yourself and others!
Protect Your Income
- Be sure the person who handles your money can be trusted;
- Take the greatest care when signing any loan contracts;
- Understand completely what you are getting into; and
- If you are not totally confident in the transaction, DON'T SIGN ANYTHING! Wait and talk it over with someone you trust.
Fraud and Con-Games
If you are offered a deal that sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Most people think they could not be tricked, fooled or conned into handing over money for fraudulent deals. But it happens often. Con artists are experts in human psychology and behavior.
They know how to gain your confidence with smooth talk and a self-assured manner. High-pressure sales are another ploy used by con artists. You can't recognize a con artist by the way someone looks or dresses, but you can be on the alert for con artists and consumer frauds.
Telemarketing is a common method of stealing from senior citizens. Telephone fraud con artists spend a lot of time "polishing" their lines for enticing seniors to buy. Here are some tips that can alert you to Telemarketing scams:
- You must act now!
- You've won a "free" gift or vacation.
- Pay only postage and handling.
- You must send money, give a credit card number, a bank account number or have a check picked up by a carrier before you have a chance to carefully consider the offer.
- You don't need to research their company with anyone, including a lawyer, accountant, Better Business Bureau or other consumer protection agency.
- You don't need written information about their company or references.
- You can't afford to miss this "high profit, no risk" offer.
REMEMBER! The most successful con games are old schemes with new twists. There are many schemes and variations to the same scheme. If you hear these or similar lines, investigate further.
Elder abuse crosses all social, economic and ethnic lines. Any elderly person can become a victim. It is important to become aware of the possibility of elder abuse and recognize signs that might suggest its occurrence. Knowing what to look for and who to contact, if you suspect abuse, will help in correcting the situation. This awareness will enable you to help yourself, friends or family members who may be in trouble.
Fortunately, not all older persons experience this type of treatment. Nevertheless, elder abuse is a frightening and real issue. By being alert to situations that could lead to abuse of an elderly person, you may be able to prevent a serious injury or save a life.
- Look for any unusual unexplained bumps, bruises or cuts;
- Look for unusual changes in behavior;
- If you don't hear from elderly friends for several days stop by and check on them;
- Be alert of salesmen at elderly friends' homes. If elderly friends tell you about someone inappropriately spending their money, report it to the police; and
- Notice if elderly friends' homes are unusually unkempt or filthy; notice if they begin to look malnourished; or if they are not receiving proper medication. If necessary, notify the proper authority.
If elder abuse is suspected, contact the following :
- Sacramento County Adult Protective Services - 916-874-9377 (24hrs)
Convalescent Home Crimes
With an increase of elderly community members, due to the baby boomers and a longer lifespan, there will be a greater need for long-term care. This will include a need for convalescent homes, at-home care and adult day cares. The following crime prevention tips are provided to assist seniors, their relatives and friends in making sure our elderly community members don’t become victims.
Often convalescent home crimes and related quality of life issues go unreported. These crimes and issues usually go unreported because:
- Seniors fear retaliation for reporting crimes by their caretakers.
- Seniors may think that no one cares about them or what happens to them.
- They may think that the crimes committed against them are just a fact of life and there is nothing that can be done to change it.
- Seniors may be embarrassed to tell their family or friends what has been done to them because of what their family or friends might think. Seniors may be ashamed to ask their family or friends for assistance.
- Convalescent home employees, who become aware or witness crimes in the home, may not report these crimes, fearing retaliation from their employer.
Crimes in Convalescent Homes
There are several types of crimes that can occur. These crimes can range from physical abuse, criminal neglect, sexual assault, emotional, psychological abuse or financial abuse. It’s hard to believe that such crimes can occur against seniors but these abuses are a harsh reality. It must be pointed out that many seniors are as vulnerable as small children are. The following is a list of possible signs of abuse and neglect.
- Rough handling or grabbing
- Hitting or slapping
- Dragging the patient by the arms or hair
- The lack of physical activity
- Bed sores
- Rashes, sores, lice
- Untreated medical condition
- Over or under medicated
Sexual assault is when a senior is forced, manipulated, or coerced into unwanted sexual activity, or the senior lacks the ability to consent to any sexual activity. Family members, staff members of homes or a stranger can initiate sexual assault.
- Or sexual battery
- Verbal threats of punishment
- Constant harassment
- Threat of withdrawal of services
- Theft of personal effects
- Overcharging for services
- Fraudulent billing for non-services
What to Look for in Selecting a Convalescent Home
- When choosing a home, look at the surroundings.
- Check the inside and outside of the home for cleanliness and grounds that are well kept. This can indicate an overall concern by the caretakers for cleanliness.
- When walking inside smell the air. It should smell clean and fresh not musty or have a high chemical smell.
- Look at the home’s equipment to make sure it is in good working condition and not outdated. This could indicate the lack of funds to assist in the care or well being of the patients.
- Talk to employees about the condition of the home and their work environment. Happy employees indicate a high morale that in-turns creates employees that are more concerned about the quality of the job they perform.
We have established a "crime prevention minded" attitude. We have also covered several aspects of everyday life where your safety can be improved. Let your intuition be your guide. Be alert, be safe and enjoy life.