Elder abuse cases will be easier to prosecute with new tool

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LANSING (WJRT) (9/10/2019) - There's a new tool in Michigan to help investigate and prosecute crimes against vulnerable adults.

The Attorney General unveiled a new incident report form in a press conference Tuesday.

The form is intended to get prosecutors and police officers all on the same page.

It's the result of one of the Attorney General's 9 initiatives her elder abuse task force has chosen to focus on.

"This form, I think helps establish a best practice that will definitely help in not only the investigation, but the prosecution of those who commit the offense of elder abuse or vulnerable abuse," explained MSP's Colonel Joe Gasper.

He, several county prosecutors, and the heads of both the Michigan Sheriffs' Association and Michigan Chiefs of Police joined Dana Nessel to make the announcement.

The AG said more than 73,000 Michiganders are victims of elder abuse every year and the older population is only continuing to grow.

The state is expected to be home to more than 2 million seniors by 2030.

Nessel said there's never been a tool like this, so it's been difficult to fully investigate and hold those who prey on older adults accountable for their actions.

"People are not getting caught and this is one of the reasons," she said. "And we want people to be afraid to commit these crimes and know that law enforcement is going to come after them. They will be investigated, they will be prosecuted, they will be convicted and they will be held accountable for committing crimes against seniors in the state."

Mid-Michigan prosecutors said they commonly see elder abuse through financial exploitation.

Midland County Prosecutor J. Dee Brooks said they've had trouble in the past prosecuting elder abuse cases because all of the information wasn't there. So he helped the team create the form to make sure nothing is missing.

"This really will give them clues and the things to look for, the things to ask for, the types of evidence that we need for them to be able to put together in a report, for us to review and be able to issue and effectively prosecute the cases," he explained.

Brooks said it's been difficult to even recognize a crime has happened for several reasons.

Sometimes older adults aren't in the proper mental state to see it happening, or it's a family member taking their money so they don't want to pursue charges.

Because some of these investigations used to be treated as civil matters, Michigan Chiefs of Police Executive Director Bob Stevenson said officers will need training.

But, he doesn't expect it will cost departments anything.

"We believe the most promising solution to this problem will be the development of online training that departments can use to train their personnel on duty without incurring any additional costs," Stevenson said. "Of course, the development and implementation of this training will cost money; but, we understand the AG’s Office is currently working towards a no cost solution."

Nessel is hopeful because they're paying closer attention, it'll deter people from committing the crime.

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