Friday, December 23, 2016

Prosecutors in Tri-Cities trying to stop growing cases of elder abuse

SULLIVAN COUNTY, TN (WJHL) – About one in ten Americans over the age of 60 have experienced some form of elder abuse, according to the National Council on Aging.

We found out before now, there wasn’t an organized system to prosecute abusers, and many of these cases fell through the cracks.

Of the millions of elderly adults abused each year, one study estimates that only 1 in 14 cases of abuse are reported to authorities.

Now because of a new state law, district attorneys throughout Tennessee are going after these cases more aggressively than ever before, and trying to make sure when abuse happens it’s reported

“It’s very sad to see these,” Amy Hinkle said. She is a Sullivan County assistant district attorney and the chief prosecutor for vulnerable adults cases.

“We’ve had cases where people have been allowed to fall out of the bed and laid for 12 hours or longer,” Hinkle said.

She said though these types of cases are not in the public spotlight often, it’s something she sees every day.

“We have had cases where family members have exploited which means financially taken advantage of these people who are left at home no food, no medicine, sitting in their own urine and feces,” Hinkle said.

Now district attorneys are working on a new initiative called VAPIT, Vunerable Adult Protective Investigative Team, made up of law enforcement, prosecutors, and protective services. Its goal is to seek justice for vulnerable adults including the elderly and adults with disabilities.

“Prosecuting those cases that we find that there’s criminal activity and helping and assisting and providing resources for the victims and also educating the public and asking the public if they suspect abuse to report it,” Sullivan County District Attorney Barry Staubus said.

One change with this new law is prosecutors now have access to closed Adult Protective Services cases.

“We could have a case in which the victim has been removed from the home, placed in a nursing facility. That would close an Adult Protective Services case,” Hinkle said.

But now prosecutors can reopen that case and make sure the offender is prosecuted.

Hinkle said since taking steps to coordinate with the other agencies, she is seeing more instances reported.

“There are some days I get ten or more a day, there are some days I get maybe one to two, but it’s very rare that there’s not even one reported on a day,” Hinkle said.

Another change,  law enforcement officers are now trained on how to spot and handle these types of cases.

The law requiring the VAPIT initiative goes in to effect January 1st.

This isn’t the only recent change related to elder abuse, after a 2013 WJHL Community Watchdog investigation into the state’s abuse problem, lawmakers stiffened penalties for people guilty of elder abuse and approved the creation of a task force.

Full Article & Source:
Prosecutors in Tri-Cities trying to stop growing cases of elder abuse

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