New task force on violence against the elderly launched by Georgian leaders

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) and the Forensic Special Initiatives Unit (FSIU) established the Crimes Against Disabled Adults and Elderly Task Force. In 2020, law enforcement agencies reported 861 charges relating to cases of abuse, neglect and exploitation of the elderly.

Tuesday is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, and leaders want Georgians to know they have a resource should an adult be exploited in their life.

“Sometimes they really don’t have a voice. That’s what this task force was created for,” said Pat King, manager of the Forensic Special Initiatives Unit within the Georgia Division of Aging Services.

The Crimes Against Disabled Adults and Elderly Task Force is a joint initiative of the FSIU and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

“We have a legal, moral and ethical obligation to ensure we protect the most vulnerable members of our society, and that certainly includes our seniors and especially our disabled adults,” said GBI Director Vic Reynolds.

There are several types of elderly abuse, including physical abuse and neglect.

“Most often, we see financial exploitation either by family members or by caregivers,” said King. “Then there are a lot of different scams too, you know, almost every month a different scam comes in that specifically targets older adults.”

King said financial exploitation can often lead to neglect as well, when someone uses a senior’s money on rent, food, or medical care for themselves instead.

State lawmakers have only updated Georgia law in the last decade to create crimes against the elderly. GBI data shows the problem has increased since then.

In 2010, law enforcement agencies across the country arrested 223 people on 379 charges. That number rose to 673 offenders arrested on 1,163 charges in 2018 and 691 suspects on 938 charges in 2019.

The numbers were slightly lower in 2020 when 576 people were arrested and charged on 861 counts. GBI officials believe coverage will have decreased in 2020 due to the pandemic.

King said a big part of the task force’s mission is to raise awareness among law enforcement and healthcare professionals to help them identify the signs of abuse by the elderly.

“Maybe they won’t make arrests or refer to adult protection or regulatory agencies because people really don’t know what to look for,” King said.

She said it was vital for Georgians to keep in touch with their elderly relatives and community members.

“If you live near her, be sure to come and see her,” King said. “When you are at a facility, you regularly stop by unannounced – irregularly, if you will.”

If you believe someone you know may be a victim of violence against the elderly, you should contact local law enforcement and contact the following people:

  • Adult Protection Services, 866-552-4464
  • Health Care Facilities Ordinance, 800-878-6442
  • Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, 404-656-5400

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