According to an article in the Colorado Daily Camera on December 22, 2014, reports of elder abuse have doubled since the new reporting act was enacted in Colorado:
The Boulder County District Attorney’s office is expecting the number of elder abuse and exploitation reports it receives to jump at least 100 percent by the end of the year when compared to a similar time frame in 2012.
Deputy District Attorney Jane Walsh said the spike in reports comes from a state law that took effect July 1 that requires professionals in certain fields to report suspected or imminent abuse or exploitation of anyone over 70-years old.
“For a six month period in 2012, we had just over 80 reports of abuse, neglect and exploitation,” Walsh said, adding that 2012 is the last year her office has analyzed date available to make the comparison. “We anticipate around 200 for the six months since mandatory reporting began.”
An effort has been underway to train anyone directly subject the law — and the community in general — up to speed on the reporting requirements and how to spot abuse and exploitation, Walsh said.
Walsh said the 2012 numbers showed about 22 percent of the reported crimes involved abuse and 22 percent involved neglect. A small percentage constituted sex-based crimes, and more than half were financial in nature.
The Department of Housing and Human Services also has reported a 19 percent increase in calls to the Boulder County adult protection hotline from July to November when compared with the same time frame in 2013.
Longmont Police Detective Chris Merkle said that before the law passed, Colorado was among the last three states to not have a mandatory reporting law for at-risk seniors.
He said these types of cases can be tough to investigate because many elders are likely to know the person committing the crime and may fear having no one to care for them if they report the incident.
“It can be something where somebody is financially exploiting an at-risk elder,” he said. “Seventy to 90 percent of people that are perpetrating these acts against at-risk elders are somebody that the at-risk victim knows.”
Walsh said many of the reports won’t lead to prosecution but added the increase in reports will be useful for determining patterns of crimes, such as various scams targeting seniors, so officials can respond appropriately.
She said another law that passed in April created a new felony that allows the state a new avenue to prosecute people who financially exploit vulnerable seniors. Her office is already prosecuting several people under the new law and the first grand jury indictment came a few weeks after it passed.
She said the DAs office has always aggressively prosecuted such cases but charged people with theft before, which was sometimes hard to prove to a jury because senior victims had often voluntarily handed over money or assets.
Merkle said that once law enforcement receives such a report and deems that there could be such a crime, it will submit its report to adult protection services and the district attorney’s office and begin its own investigation. He added that officers at LPD, particularly the patrol day shift, have noticed a “marked increase” in the number of reports coming in, although he did not have exact numbers.
“If we’re getting more reports, there’s obviously more investigations that needed to be done,” he said. “Yeah it does tie up patrol and stuff like that, but in the end it’s worth it. I’d rather have that, than miss out on something that we need to know about.”
Professions listed under the mandatory reporting law
• Physicians, surgeons, physician’s assistants, osteopaths, physicians in training, podiatrists
• Chiropractors, occupational and physical therapists
• Registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and nurse practitioners
• Hospital personnel engaged in the admission, care, or treatment of patients
• Emergency medical service providers
• Psychologists and other mental health professionals
• Social work practitioners
• Long-term care facility personnel engaged in the admission, care or treatment of patients
• Clergy members (unless privileged)
• Personnel of banks, savings and loan associations, credit unions and other lending or financial institutions
• Caretaker, staff member, employee, or consultant for a licensed or certified care facility, agency, home, or governing board, including home health providers
• Caretaker, staff member, employee of, or a consultant for a home care placement agency
• Court appointed guardians and conservators
• Fire protection personnel
• Law enforcement officials and personnel
• Medical examiners and coroners
If abuse or exploitation of someone 70 or older is observed or suspected, or if the elder is at risk of abuse or exploitation, contact police. A mandatory reporter must contact police within 24 hours.
•Abuse includes non-accidental bodily injury or death, unreasonable confinement or restraint, unwanted sexual conduct or contact, and neglect
•Exploitation includes the use of deception, intimidation or undue influence to deprive an elder of something of value, the use of a third party to take advantage of the elder, the use of force or coercion to make the elder perform a service that benefits the abuser or the misuse of the elder’s property that affects the elder’s ability to receive health care or pay bills
John Bear: 303-684-5212, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/johnbearwithme