Last updated: April 02. 2014 10:48AM - 719 Views
By Scott Ballard District Attorney

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I’ve said it before here and elsewhere.

A government isn’t worth much if it doesn’t protect the most vulnerable members of society. I consider those groups to be children, the handicapped and the elderly.

Those of us in law enforcement and the courts are doing okay protecting children. We can always get better. But, we’re actively working in that arena.

Society as a whole has made great strides to improve life for the handicapped. I have children with special needs and it warms my heart to observe the kindness that they receive. I have every confidence that all of us will continue to work together on behalf of our handicapped and disabled brothers and sisters. Like children, they are off-limits to criminals and we won’t stand for a single one to be harmed.

When it comes to protecting the elderly, we’re way behind. If this were a baseball game, we’re down 15-0 in the second inning. That is especially true in the area of detecting and punishing the financial exploitation of the elderly. Law enforcement, prosecutors and courts need to step it up to stop these types of crimes.

Here’s how it works. A man raises his family. Now they’re grown and gone. His wife dies. His strength begins to fail. His mind dulls a little. He’s all alone, clinging to his dignity, but recognizing that he needs some help.

Somebody bursts onto the scene. Maybe it’s a relative. Maybe it’s a professional of some sort. Often, it’s a younger, stronger person who poses as a friend. Before you know it, the elderly man has placed all his trust in this person. He signs a power of attorney. They open a joint bank account. Maybe they even transfer title to real estate and other assets.

Soon the elderly man is broke. His life’s savings are gone.

If he made all of those financial decisions voluntarily and with a clear mind, that’s fine. He has a right to blow his money just like the rest of us.

But, if his mind has deteriorated and he has been exploited, it’s a crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

As our population ages, this is becoming a growing problem. And it’s time for law enforcement, prosecutors and the courts to come to the plate. Sifting these reports of abuse and identifying which ones are criminal will require us to develop skills that are different from the ones we use every day. The process will take time. We’ll need to roll up our sleeves. We’ll need to communicate better.

It’s 15-0. But, our sluggers are in the on-deck circle. We’re gearing up for the fight.

These particular victims fought Hitler. They pulled us out of The Great Depression. They’ve poured their hearts and souls into the effort to make our lives better.

Like children and the handicapped, they are off-limits to criminals.

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