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Strategy: Crime Prevention Services For The Elderly

Strategy Crime prevention and victim services help address the special vulnerability to crime and violence of some elderly people. . . .


Crime prevention and victim services help address the special vulnerability to crime and violence of some elderly people.

Crime Problem Addressed

Elderly people are particularly vulnerable to the crimes of burglars, purse snatchers, petty thieves, and con artists. They fear crime, especially violent crime, and that fear causes many to remain in their homes. This strategy addresses their fear of crime and provides crime prevention services to minimize both fear and crime.

Key Components

The components of this strategy include the following:

  • a communication network to keep the elderly alert to potential crime
  • information and training on how to report crime
  • services to support elderly victims in dealing with the physical, emotional, and financial impacts of crime
  • access to products, training, and other services to help prevent victimization.

Potential Obstacles

One obstacle is the challenge of helping the elderly to protect themselves against crime without unduly raising their fear of crime. Fear of crime is a critical concern encumbering many elderly people. Crime prevention practitioners who work with senior citizens agree that knowledge is the best antidote to fear. Frequent interaction with other community members helps increase the sense of security and support for all neighborhood residents.

Signs of Success

Working with the police and social service programs, grass-roots community groups such as Neighborhood Watch can greatly reduce the fear of crime among the elderly and help keep them safe. Some religious and other community groups help the elderly by providing escorts and shopping or transportation services. Such services add greatly to the individual's safety and sense of well-being.

The Atlanta, Georgia, police department has a special Neighborhood Watch program that is tailored to older residents. It establishes a "buddy system" in which neighbors check up on one another, accompany one another to the bank, store, or doctor's appointment, and watch over homes when neighbors are away. All crime reports listing elderly persons as victims are forwarded to the crime prevention unit. Its officers contact the victim, call a neighbor or relative if the person is still fearful, make follow-up visits, and link the victim to any needed social services. The program serves hundreds of Atlanta's senior citizens each year.

Applying the Strategy

In Boston, Massachusetts, the Police Department's Senior Response Unit patrols 118 senior housing complexes, as well as meal sites, senior citizen centers, and other areas frequented by the elderly. The police have increased the residents' perception of the safety of their communities.

The St. Louis County (Missouri) Older Resident Program's (CORP) Crime Prevention Program gives senior citizens the social and mental stimulation that helps keep them alert and alive. Activities include an Opportunities Fair, a cable television show produced by retirees, crime prevention presentations at churches, social meetings and clubs, telephone reassurance, and help with insurance forms and legal documents. CORP protects elderly residents and boosts the spirit of older, home-bound individuals.

From 350 Tested Strategies to Prevent Crime: A Resource for Municipal Agencies and Community Groups

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