AN DIEGO (CNS) - A program unveiled Thursday commits San Diego County to a written set of goals and a coordinated community response to elder and dependent adult abuse, including model practices and response by law enforcement, prosecutors and others.
Responding to an increase in crimes against seniors, as well as the impending explosion of the elder population, District Attorney Summer Stephan last November brought together professionals who deal with the elderly and dependent adults to identify gaps and needs in the community and set goals for the future, which resulted in the creation of the San Diego County Elder and Dependent Adult Abuse Blueprint.
"Our society will be judged on how we treat our most vulnerable, including our children and our seniors," Stephan said. "With this countywide initiative, we're proactively responding to an increase in elder abuse crime as this population continues to grow. This first-of-its-kind combating elder abuse blueprint will provide a coordinated regional response leveraging resources and partnerships in order to protect seniors and keep them safe in our community."
In San Diego County, nearly 23 percent of the population is projected to be over age 65 by the year 2050, which is a 10 percent increase from 2015. With the older population increasing, elder abuse is also on the rise.
In 2016, there were 780 violent crimes against senior citizens, an increase of 13 percent from the previous year and 37 percent from five years ago. Those 780 crimes included 14 homicides, 24 rapes, 205 robberies and 537 aggravated assaults.
"What makes elder abuse so heartbreaking, and so difficult for outsiders to recognize, is that it often comes at the hands of caretakers or family members who have the victim's trust," said San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott. "We cannot protect elders from fraud, neglect and abuse unless we recognize these crimes and are aware of the resources available to address them. That's why regional cooperation and mobilization is so critical."