Growing number of elder abuse cases in Merced County

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- Elder abuse crime is a growing concern statewide, and the number of cases here in Merced County is rising.

Attorneys and officers are being trained to spot signs of the crime.

Each of these flags represents one case of elder abuse in Merced County. There is 900 of them. County officials say the crime is so underreported, that there could be thousands more.

"Over the last four years. Each year we've seen an increase of reports by 20 percent, so that's 20 percent, 20 percent, 20 percent, 20 percent," said HSA Adult and Aging Services Alexandra Pierce.

County and city leaders came together at Courthouse Park to speak out on the growing crime.

Pierce says the 900 flags represented cases they had in 2017 alone and most of them were happening in the victim's own home.

"Its somebody the senior, or dependent adult knows. Somebody they allow into their homes to provide care for them. They're unwilling to report the incident because they're fearful," said Pierce.

Healthy House is teaming up with local law enforcement and departments to train officers and attorneys to spot elder abuse crime, and how to deal with it.

Officer Samuel Sannadan says for police, investigating elder abuse is a new challenge.

"When you're interviewing elders, it's new to a lot of police officers. It's similar to getting the rapport and understand in the way an elder communicates," said Sannadan.

The training is funded through a grant that Healthy House received from the Department of Justice. The session encourages law enforcement to connect with local agencies that may be able to help.

"The police officers know how to collaborate this, given a situation, to the agencies that are available in the community. They didn't know APS could do this for them," said Healthy House Belle Vallador.

So far, more than 80 officers have gone through the training. Advocates hope that with training and outreach, the victims will start to speak up.
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