In response to increasing elder abuse crimes in the region and an impending explosion of the elderly population, County prosecutors, health and aging officials and local law enforcement are committing to a new “blueprint” of goals and coordinated community response to abuse of these vulnerable residents.
Officials Thursday rolled out the first-ever San Diego County Elder and Dependent Adult Abuse Blueprint, which incorporates model practices and responses for emergency dispatchers, first responders, follow-up investigators, prosecutors and agencies in between.
“Our society will be judged on how we treat our most vulnerable, including our children and our seniors,” said District Attorney Summer Stephan. “With this countywide initiative, we’re proactively responding to an increase in elder abuse crime as this population continues to grow. This first of its kind combatting-elder-abuse blueprint will provide a coordinated regional response leveraging resources and partnerships in order to protect seniors and keep them safe in our community.”
The County District Attorney’s Office brought together countywide stakeholders including the County’s department of Aging and Independence Services, the City Attorney’s Office and local law enforcement as well as other experts who serve as touchpoints for elder and dependent adults. Those stakeholders identified gaps and needs in our community which resulted in the blueprint.
In San Diego County, almost 23 percent of the population is projected to be over age 65 by the year 2050, a 10 percent increase from 2015. With the older population increasing, elder abuse is also on the rise.
“The huge growth in our senior population is already testing families, hospitals, care facilities and communities. And as the population grows, so does the potential for abuse and neglect,” said County Supervisor Dianne Jacob. “The region needs a roadmap, a blueprint, to address the growing challenges facing vulnerable seniors and their families.”
In 2016, there were 780 violent crimes against senior citizens, an increase of 13 percent from the previous year and 37 percent from five years ago. These 780 crimes included 14 homicides, 24 rapes, 205 robberies, and 537 aggravated assaults. Between fiscal years 2015 and 2017, law enforcement investigated over 3,000 crime cases for abuse of elders 65 years and older. During that same time period, elder abuse cases filed by the DA’s Office and the San Diego City Attorney’s Office increased by 39 percent.
“We cannot tolerate abuse of the elderly or vulnerable in any form,” said Chuck Matthews, Interim Director of the County’s Aging and Independence Services. “If you suspect abuse of any kind is occurring, we encourage you to call Adult Protective Services so that we may investigate and make sure no one is being taken advantage of or harmed in any way.”
The Adult Protective Services number is (800) 510-2020. You can also call your local law enforcement agency.
Adult Protective Services has continued to receive an increased number of referrals from fiscal years 2014 to 2017. They received 14,741 referrals in fiscal year 2016-2017 and handled 9,872 cases. Financial abuse was the most common form of abuse seen in their confirmed cases, followed by mental suffering and physical abuse.
The blueprint also takes into consideration the various health challenges, such as Alzheimer’s disease or other related disorders and/or cultural issues facing our San Diego aging population.
“Based on the projected growth of the elder population, the Sheriff’s department is committed to utilizing all of our dedicated resources for the successful prosecution of those committing crimes against elders and dependent adults,” said Sheriff William Gore. “In partnership with all of the allied agencies, as well as the implementation of the San Diego Countywide Elder and Dependent Abuse Blueprint, we will ensure crimes against the elders and dependent adults will not fall to the wayside and will remain one of our top priorities moving forward.”
To learn more about what constitutes abuse and reporting abuse visit Adult Protective Services or call (800) 510-2020 if you are within San Diego County and (800) 339-4661 if you are outside of the County.