TCDA Expands Elder Abuse Task Force
Last updated 1/13/2021 at 8:46pm | View PDF
Despite COVID precautions hampering a number of outreach and court operations this year, the Tulare County District Attorney's Office reinforced its Elder Abuse Team and is in a strong position for continued support of seniors in 2021.
"There is no greater time to be aware of what our seniors and dependent adults are going through than right now," said District Attorney Tim Ward.
"With decreased physical access to services and periods of isolation, it is a tragic recipe for scammers and others to take advantage of our most vulnerable neighbors. I encourage anyone who suspects physical, financial, and neglectful abuse to contact the Tulare County elder abuse reporting hotline at 1-877-657-3092."
TCDA elder abuse victim advocates now serve both the north and south county. Long-time elder abuse advocate Nicole Burnham has served in the position for 10 years. Burnham is a certified handler for courthouse facility K-9 Fortune, and accompanies victims through the court process.
Newly hired bilingual advocate Brenda Rodriguez serves victims in the south county. Advocate Renee Newman supervises the advocate team and their outreach. Deputy District Attorney Peter DeYoung is assigned to prosecute elder abuse cases.
Prior to COVID, the team hosted 30 community presentations annually, covering topics such as "Recognizing and Reporting Elder Abuse," "Cons, Scams and Identity Theft," and "How to Stay Safe When Out in the Community and at Home." The team developed several new tools to hand out to the community, including a scam book and elder abuse photo novella, which is planned for distribution in 2021.
"COVID impeded a number of court and community functions this year, including our ability to do in-person outreach," said Ward. "We have always maintained that prevention is the best defense against this crime. We are pleased that in November we were able to run an extensive media campaign to bring awareness to elder abuse, and we hope that 2021 will allow us to get back in front of service clubs, senior centers and care providers to educate them on what this crime entails."
Due to full and partial community lockdowns, Ward advocates for vigilance on behalf of seniors. "Sometimes it is just a phone call to check on someone," he said.
In 2020, the District Attorney's office filed more than 50 cases of elder abuse and is currently prosecuting more than 100 cases.
"We are encouraging our community to use resources like Meals on Wheels for home delivery for seniors who have difficulty getting their groceries," said Burnham. "We are also making lots of referrals to the Tulare County Mental Health Senior Counseling Program which provides free counseling to any Tulare County resident 50 years or older. COVID has taken a toll on many and we want our community to know that Tulare County is striving to stay emotionally healthy during this time."
More information and additional resources can be found at https://tulareda.org/elder-abuse or by calling the District Attorney's Victim Services Division at (559) 636-5471.