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A STEADILY RISING VOLUME OF CRIME creates an atmosphere of fear haunting all levels of society. It is particularly alarming to those Americans who are most vulnerable our senior citi. zens. Unfortunately, scant attention has been focused on this unique and challenging aspect of our crime problem.
In terms of numbers alone, older persons form a significant part of our society. Statistically, slightly over 10 percent of our populationapproximately 22 million Americans—are 65 years of age or older. This age group comprises one of the fastest growing segments of our populace, its ranks increasing by about 1,000 persons daily.
Studies indicate that the threat of crime is a major fear for many of our older citizens. It causes a diminishment of their community involvement and a forfeiture of social activities beneficial to them. Fortunately, the most dreaded criminal acts—homicide and rape—are infrequently committed against persons in their age group.
timize them are prevalent-particularly young hoodlums. The elderly are seldom a match for these robust, fleet-of-foot bandits, and in such an environment, it is not unusual for an elderly person to be victimized repeatedly.
Street crimes such as purse snatchings, mug. gings, and armed holdups, together with home burglaries and confidence-type frauds, are of. fenses that most commonly strike the elderly. In the last category, they are victimized out of proportion to their numbers. Typically, of course, older persons are among those least able to afford the depredations of crime. Limited financial resources, fixed incomes, and reduced employment opportunities make even a slight monetary loss a catastrophe. Also, physiological and psychological factors, attendant to aging, make the elderly more vulnerable and less resilient to the trauma and personal injury of criminal attack. Accordingly, crime leaves a deeper, more lasting mark, and injuries incurred may be more disabling and require a longer recovery period.
Traditionally, police have exhibited compassionate concern in dealing with older persons. Generally, however, little or no specialized training in this area has been afforded to officers. Law enforcement can substantially improve its capabilities and effectiveness in serving senior citizens. We must seek to advance through training our understanding of the elderly and their particular crime problems. We must sponsor and support programs for teaching the elderly simple, worthwhile, and inexpensive crime resistance
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN
Most offenses against elderly persons are crimes of opportunity, occurring at or near their residences. Often careless or thoughtless actions on their part make them easy prey to criminally inclined opportunists. Unfortunately, too, economic and social considerations have situated numerous older persons in crime-ridden urban neighborhoods where those most prone to vic
FEB 16 1976
calls for other patrol units to overlap the areas temporarily unprotected.
Locally, recruit officers are given little or no training to prepare them for family-crisis intervention. The recruits learn to handle “domestics” by observing veteran officers in action. After a period of time, the recruit is considered capable of handling these situations by himself.
The codirectors agreed that in their experience the officers were effective in dealing with the immediate prob. lem usually by persuasive conversa. tion with the individuals involved or by threatening to lock up one or the other, normally the husband. In many cases, it is easy to persuade the husband to go for a walk around the block and cool off, or to have either of the individuals spend the night with other family members or friends. In any event, the solution is generally a temporary one. As with the bulk of an iceberg, the basis of the problem remains hidden. Consequently, the
police officers may well have to return hol problems, etc. They can spend as during the same shift, an occurrence much time as necessary with clients, which often leads to the arrest of one thereby freeing the police so they may of the parties. More time and man- return to patrol or answer other calls power are expended and the problem for service. There are other agencies continues to be unresolved.
who will respond to alcohol problems,
child abuse, etc. “Another problem sensed Officers from the various depart. by the codirectors was that ments were frustrated with the mental few, if any, police officers health center staff. The officers comwere aware of referral serv- plained of bringing violent individuices in the county."
als to the center for admittance, as
provided for under the mental health Another problem sensed by the co
law, only to have them refused addirectors was that few, if any, police
mittance because the individual no officers were aware of referral serv
longer showed violent tendencies or ices in the county. A myriad of serv
was not seen as a threat to self or ices are available to assist officers
others. In addition, after the officers in their demanding profession. It is
waited for the person to be evaluated, important to inform officers of the reason for not admitting the indiagencies' functions and advise them vidual was not made clear to them. in making contacts. For example, staff Officers complained of risking their from the counseling center are avail- lives several times to save the same able 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. person from jumping over Niagara These people, many of whom are vol- Falls, only to have that person reunteers, will respond to attempted fused admittance to the center. The suicides, family problems, drug/alco- lack of communication concerning