Ten organizations wrote letters or testified today before the Subcommittee on Public Safety of the Oregon legislature’s Committee on Ways and Means in support of funding for Oregon’s first statewide Elder Abuse Resource Prosecutor. The position would be housed within the Oregon Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, and would increase Oregon’s capacity to stop elder financial and physical abuse by providing training, technical assistance and legal expertise to district attorneys, law enforcement and others who work with seniors. If funded, Oregon would be the second state in the country with a statewide prosecutor devoted to elder abuse.
“Oregon has specific laws that criminalize the abuse, neglect and exploitation of older adults. However, these cases can be difficult to prosecute. Many involve the victimization of older adults by family members or others with whom they have an ongoing relationship. Victims may also be slow to recognize and report abuse, and reluctant to cooperate with criminal justice professionals,” said Attorney General Rosenblum.
Elders in Action, the Office of the Long-term Care Ombudsman, AARP, Legal Aid Services of Oregon, the Oregon State Bar, Alzheimer’s Association, the Oregon Department of Veteran Affairs, the Governor’s Commission on Senior Services, Campaign for Oregon’s Seniors & People with Disabilities, and the Residential Facilities Advisory Committee all voiced their support for the new position.
Every year, it is estimated that 2.1 million older Americans are the victims of elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation. In Oregon, nearly 30,000 reports of potential abuse were made in 2013. To combat this growing epidemic, the new statewide prosecutor will assist local district attorneys in the prosecution of complex cases; develop training materials, best-practice policies and other publications to improve the identification, investigation and prosecution of elder abuse, including financial exploitation.
“DOJ’s proposed Elder Abuse Resource Prosecutor would be an essential addition to resources aimed at preventing the victimization of older veterans and citizens by perpetrators with whom they have an ongoing and trusting relationship,” wrote Cameron Smith, Director of the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs, in a letter to the committee. “The position is well aimed to creatively coordinate and leverage partners to positively increase awareness, training, prevention, detection and prosecution of elder abuse.”
Currently, the Oregon Department of Justice includes two other statewide resource prosecutors for Domestic Violence and DUII. The creation of the Elder Abuse Prosecutor would make three full-time special prosecutors within the Oregon Department of Justice to assist in complex cases statewide. The Oregon Department of Justice also requested funding for two additional full-time investigators to assist the new Elder Abuse Prosecutor.
“This model has served the state well in Domestic Violence and DUII. Adding Elder Abuse will fill an urgent need, especially given the complexity of these types of cases,” Attorney General Rosenblum added.
Kristina Edmunson, Department of Justice, Kristina.Edmunson@doj.state.or.us, 503-378-6002