More elderly, disabled abuse reports in Boulder County
Rate of the crimes not higher; DA glad to see reporting rise.
boulder» The Boulder County district attorney’s office has noted an uptick in reports of abuse and exploitation of elderly people and people with developmental disabilities, but it is crediting changes in state law that requires people in certain professions to report suspected abuse, not a higher rate of the crimes.
“We want to see reporting go up,” District Attorney Stan Garnett said. “It’s an under-reported crime. We are glad when we see reporting going up, and it’s gone up dramatically.”
A state law that took effect in 2014 requires certain professionals to report suspected abuse of anyone 70 years old and older. Since July, the same professionals are required to report suspected abuse of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
A sampling of DA’s office report numbers from September to November for 2011 shows the office received 40 reports. That jumped to about 100 during the same time period in 2015, and, after the law changed to include developmentally disabled adults, the number is 160 for that period this year.
Garnett suspects that once the final statistics have been tallied, the reports his office is receiving will have quadrupled.
“The challenge is all these cases need to be investigated to determine if legal action is appropriate,” he said. “That is a lot of work, but we will figure out how to get it done.”
He added that it is possible that resources inside his office will have to be redirected to handle the case load, but he said it is a top priority, in part, because the population in Boulder County is aging.
Officials say that making members of the public aware of the problem is part of the work that needs to be done. This month, the DA’s office handed out about 800 “no solicitation” signs to elderly residents through the Meals on Wheels program.
“That was to keep people away from the doorstep of vulnerable seniors,” said deputy district attorney Jane Walsh. “We’ve seen aggressive sales tactics like sales companies selling pest control or security systems.”
She added that there have also been cases of “distraction burglaries,” during which a person will ring a doorbell, get the victim’s attention while another person goes in a back door or window.
Those types of crimes come in addition to various telephone scams that often target seniors, Walsh said.
Longmont police held a training session for its own officers and officers from other departments this year as the new changes came into effect, in part, because much of the investigation that comes from mandatory reporting will fall upon police agencies.
“We want people to be aware and report these crimes, even if there is just a suspicion,” Deputy Chief Jeff Satur said. “These types of crimes are under-reported.”