KNOXVILLE (WATE) – The city of Knoxville has received a $350,000 grant to combat elder abuse in the community.
In 2015, there were 483 investigations involving adult protective services in Knox County. Among those investigations, 105 allegations of emotional abuse, 78 allegations of physical abuse, 136 allegations of financial exploitation, 111 allegations of elder neglect and 13 allegations of sexual abuse were reported.
“I think this is an issue that not a lot of people realize is a problem in their community but is something that when people find out more about they feel engaged, passionate. They want to do something to help seniors in their community,” Joseph Winberry, elder abuse community outreach program manager, said.
Though elder abuse remains an on-going issue in Knoxville and around the country, city leaders predict an even greater number of crimes against the elderly as more baby boomers enter retirement. Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch said it’s an issue that affects one of the community’s most vulnerable populations.
“Unfortunately, you have caretakers in the home that are family and they will take advantage and that’s probably the most heartbreaking, because you want to trust your family,” Rausch said.
While local law enforcement and social services respond to hundreds of elder abuse calls every year, the number of cases are believed to be much higher, pointing to data that shows only one in every 20 elder abuse crimes is reported.
“The problem is real and it is vital that all of us who serve the public and interact with elderly citizens know how to recognize the signs of abuse and what resources are available,” Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero said.
Rausch said the majority of elder abuse crimes involve domestic abuse, financial exploitation and scams. The federal grant will fund the training of 877 law enforcement officers, with the Knoxville Police Department and the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, the education of professional care takers, and services for victims of abuse.
Organizers said it’s a much needed step to ending what they call an epidemic and an opportunity for Knoxville to be a leader in the fight against elder abuse.
“I know that if my grandmother was in need or an older adult that I cared about needed that support, I would hope that someone would do that for them, so I’m thankful to be able to do that in Knox County,” Winberry said.
City of Knoxville receives grant to combat elder abuse