Ounce of elder abuse prevention disappearing

FRESNO, Calif.

One detective is in charge of preventing elder abuse, and educating both law enforcement and the public about it in Fresno and Madera counties. But his position is disappearing.

86-year-old Fran Johns got a surprising phone call on Wednesday from a stranger.

"He was telling Grandma she won $2.5 million," said Johns' granddaughter, Tammy Perez.

Perez recognized the call as a scam, but she needed help to convince her grandmother. When she called Fresno County Sheriff's Detective David Case, she got exactly what she needed.

"He started talking to Grandma about it and he was just so blunt it and he knew just what to say because he's gone through it so much," Perez said.

For the last six years, Case has been in charge of community outreach and education on prevention of elder abuse. He's accumulated a long list of ways people try to take advantage of the elderly -- from scams on the phone, or fake checks in the mail, to stealing electricity from an elderly neighbor. Case goes around the Valley, letting seniors know what they're up against so they can prevent elder abuse.

"Fresno County, the sheriff's department, Fresno city, the police department -- they all care about seniors, but this gives a voice to remind the people these agencies do care about them," Case said.

But as of July 1, Case's position will be gone, a thought that outrages some of the people he's helped.

"Okay, so let's just get the criminals together and might as well just hand them our wallets and our bank accounts," Perez said.

Federal funding from the Fresno Madera Area Agency on Aging has dried up, and the sheriff's office can't afford to pay case's salary.

The elder abuse unit still has one sheriff's investigator and two from the Fresno Police Department. But county supervisors are hoping Sheriff Margaret Mims can find a way to keep Case's work going.

"We have calls to the sheriff and we're asking her, as tight as her budget is, if she can't reallocate any other officers in her department to even work part time in the elder abuse unit because it is an important unit," said Fresno County Supervisor Henry Perea.

It was definitely important for Fran Johns, but she could very well be the last senior saved before the scam even happens.

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