CHICAGO — Gov. Rod Blagojevich today announced the creation of a special, statewide unit dedicated to fight financial exploitation and abuses against the elderly. The unit will be funded by a $280,000 grant for the Crimes Against Seniors Program (CASP). Illinois State Police will receive the funding through the Edward Byrne Memorial State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance Program, also known as the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, administered by the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (ICJIA).
"Our seniors have worked hard, raised their families and they deserve a peaceful and safe retirement. Unfortunately, senior citizens are preyed upon by scam artists – sometimes even family members or caregivers – who want to take away their hard earned money, their self-esteem and independence. We must do everything we can to guard the elderly from fraud and abuse and afford them the respect and security they deserve," said the Governor.
Through the program, four highly qualified investigators will provide a variety of services to Illinois seniors, including investigation, advocacy, and education.
The investigators will develop and rely on localized liaisons with senior services providers, prosecutors, other law enforcement agencies, and financial representatives for case referrals. ISP also will partner with the Illinois Department on Aging to ensure resources are directed to areas of greatest need throughout the state.
"Unfortunately, in today’s society, there are individuals who choose to take advantage of the elderly," said Director Larry Trent of the Illinois State Police. "The investigators assigned to assist seniors will work to provide them with the safety network needed to protect their future."
An educational program component will aid in crime prevention. CASP investigators will speak to senior citizens groups and others throughout the state about the warning signs of financial abuse and consumer fraud. This community outreach will help seniors more proactively monitor their assets and prevent them from becoming unwitting victims of crime.
The investigators also will serve as advocates for elderly victims, seeing them through all phases of case investigation and prosecution. They will provide moral support and encouragement while serving as a lifeline through the bewildering legal maze of hearings, motions, depositions, trials, and appeals.
"Because there is often a reluctance or inability of senior citizens to cooperate with investigators in elder abuse cases due to cognitive impairments, fear of involuntary institutionalization, and the potential for strained family relationships, advocacy is one of the most important aspects of this program," said ICJIA Executive Director Lori G. Levin.
Elder abuse is a growing epidemic, one that the criminal justice community fears will only get worse as the Baby Boom generation starts to age. Illinois Department on Aging statistics reveal a 31 percent jump in reported cases of elder abuse statewide between 1997 and 2003. Elder abuse victims, most of whom are women, suffer physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, financial exploitation, and neglect, often at the hands of people they trust: their children, primary caregivers, and those they depend on for survival. These victims are fragile, ill, and sometimes incapacitated.
The Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority is the state agency designated by the Governor to administer the Edward Byrne Memorial State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance Program funds awarded to Illinois by the U.S. Department of Justice.