Berge & Berge, LLP Blog

Sunday, December 13, 2015

TRIAD Program to Educate Seniors Makes Them Less Fearful of Crime

How does the TRIAD program educate senior citizens to feel safer about reporting crime?

In 1988, TRIAD, a pilot program designed to assuage the fear of reporting crime that persists among senior citizens, was started in Louisiana. The organization began as a partnership of AARP (American Association of Retired Persons), IACP (International Association of Chiefs of Police), and NSA (National Senior Adults) with the intention of educating and protecting the elderly from crime.

People generally feel more vulnerable as they age. When confronted by the possibly of criminal behavior, they are even more likely to become frightened than the general population. As an example, one 65-year-old woman in Iowa explained that she was afraid to report the odd comings and goings, both day and night, at her neighbor's house for fear of retaliation. According to her perception, the neighbor himself was a "scary person," made all the more frightening by the suspicious activity at his home. She felt sure there was some illegal activity going on, probably drug-related, but she was afraid to act.

Ironically, shortly after she got up her courage to report the neighbor to the police and he was subsequently evicted, a new branch of the TRIAD program opened near her home in Des Moines. After enrolling in the program, and getting to know the local police, she became convinced of the necessity and safety of contacting law enforcement should a similar situation ever arise again.

TRIAD has found that crimes against seniors are tremendously underreported. It is estimated by authorities that only about 1 percent of such crimes are reported in the U.S. Crimes against the elderly include:

• Telephone scams
• Door-to-door fraudulent schemes
• Financial exploitation or physical abuse by caretakers

Tragically, in many cases, the financial exploitation or physical abuse is inflicted by family members or trusted associates.

Reasons Senior Citizens Are Targeted

Criminals, often savvy as well as cruel, target older individuals just because these people are more vulnerable. Reasons the elderly may be easier prey than younger adults include the facts that they are:

• Frequently isolated and lonely
• Fearful that they may be suspected of suffering some cognitive loss
• Ashamed that they have taken in
• Do not want to report exploitation that will result in prosecution of a loved one
• May suffer from dementia and be unaware that they have been victimized

Seniors who attend TRIAD meetings became emboldened as they voice their own concerns and listen to the concerns of others. Law enforcement authorities encourage attendees not to be reluctant to contact police if they feel unsafe, have knowledge about a crime, or simply notice a suspicious activity. They also explain ways to contact the authorities anonymously.

If you have been the victim of a crime or has witnessed suspicious activity, you should feel free to report the criminal activity to the proper authorities. An experienced elder law attorney can guide you through the process.

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