WISE COUNTY, VIRGINIA (WJHL)- Senior adults make up the fastest growing population in southwest Virginia and the number of crimes and scams targeting older adults are also growing, according to Wise County Commonwealth Attorney Chuck Slemp.
Thursday is “World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.” Thursday also marks the first meeting of the the Southwest Virginia Joint Senior Abuse Task Force focused on helping senior adults, preventing crimes against them, and prosecuting the offenders.
“The statistic is staggering if you think about it 5 million people potentially across the country affected by elder abuse, that we know of, one in 24 cases are actually reported to police,” Slemp said.
The task force is a collaboration between community leaders, law enforcement, prosecutors, adult protective services, bankers, and law makers.
“Caregivers and family members are ripping off our greatest generation and we are committed to doing more to try and prevent that,” Slemp said.
In one year, older adults lost $2.9 billion to financial exploitation, according to the National Center for Victims of Crime.
Slemp said law enforcement and state prosecutors are going to start working with bankers so they know what to do if they see someone financially abusing a senior.
“When someone steals money through using a power of attorney from an elderly parent or grandparent, that’s a crime and we want to link our resources together to try to prosecute those individuals who are ripping off our elderly,” Slemp said.
In July, a new law takes effect that is aimed to help prosecute more of these cases. The law will also gives law enforcement more resources to collaborate on these senior abuse cases. According to Slemp, right now social services is required to investigate elder abuse cases but not required to report it to law enforcement, that will change with new law.
“We are going to start entering into memorandums of understanding with not only law enforcement partners but also financial institutions and if they see something, they say something, Slemp said.
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