D.A. Establishes County-Wide Elder Abuse Prevention Campaign
NEW BEDFORD — Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn III joined representatives of Coastline Elderly Services and a room full of senior citizens on Friday to announce details of a county-wide elder abuse prevention campaign.
Part of the campaign is a statewide elder abuse hotline that Quinn has enacted for the county, as well as the Bristol County Celebration of Seniors event to take place on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. The statewide hotline will be featured on signs located throughout the county on the back of SRTA busses.
The District Attorney also discussed the measures taken by his office in the fight against elder abuse, specifically financial abuse. Quinn detailed units he's created during his tenure, including a Financial Crimes Unit and a Community Affairs Unit, that partner with organizations like Coastline to further prevent these crimes.
“I've been the District Attorney for almost three and a half years, and after being on the job for a few months it just became increasingly clear that the financial abuse of the elderly, there's also other forms of abuse, was rampant,” Quinn said. “Our elderly are vulnerable victims. They live alone, they're older, and are more susceptible to becoming victims of fraud. During these past three years we've brought a lot of crimes against the elderly. These aren't easy cases to prosecute.”
The Financial Crimes Unit, headed by Mike Scott, puts a focus on crimes against the elderly on top of other financial crimes. The Community Affairs Unit not only seeks prosecution for those abusing and stealing from seniors, but also works to prevent the crimes from ever happening.
Eric Poulin represents the Community Affairs Unit, and says that the unit works with Coastline's Money Management Program. The Money Management Program, led by Direct Natacha Salemme, matches volunteers with elders to assist them in paying bills and other aspects of their finances. Poulin says that the unit will assist by providing thorough screening of all volunteers of the program, as well as monitor them if necessary.
“This has been very important to us in the District Attorney's Office because one of the things that I do and others in the Community Affairs Unit is working with seniors,” Poulin explained. “We try to prevent, we don't just prosecute elder abuse and I think it's important to note that we do a lot around prevention.”
Quinn also provided examples of elder abuse crimes that he's came across that hit close to home. In one situation involving an elderly man in New Bedford, Quinn says the elderly man lost over $100,000 he had saved for his grandson to a scam artist who had offered to help him with finances. In another case, Quinn described how a city woman in her nineties was robbed of over $300,000.
"It's reprehensible that elders are financially abused. Nobody is going to disagree with that, especially if it's by people you love. It can be family, care takers, or scam artists,” said Quinn. “Stealing is one of the American pastimes sadly. An estimated 5 million elders face abuse, neglect, or exploitation each year.”
The statewide senior abuse hotline is available every day at all hours to report elder abuse. If you know of any elders facing abuse, or are suspicious of elder abuse, call the hotline at 1-800-922-2275.
The Bristol County Celebration of Seniors event will be held from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on June 15 - also World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. The month of June is recognized as Elder Abuse Awareness Month.