Law enforcement offers safety tips for seniors
by Elsie Hodnett
Jul 10, 2011 | 5280 views |  0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Use caution when making purchases online. It is usually best to never give out personal information over the Internet. Bob Crisp
Use caution when making purchases online. It is usually best to never give out personal information over the Internet. Bob Crisp
Unfortunately, criminals sometimes target senior citizens for a wide assortment of crimes, including burglary, frauds, scams and more.

“We have started the S.A.L.T. program, which stands for Seniors And Law Enforcement Together,” Pell City Police Chief Greg Turley said.

Turley said the S.A.L.T. program is a cooperative effort between the Pell City Police Department and the senior citizens of Pell City. A S.A.L.T. Council was formed, made up of representatives from the police department and local seniors.

Turley said S.A.L.T. has several purposes, including:

• To decrease crime and the “fear” of crime in order to raise livability for our seniors.

• To increase and improve senior crime prevention and education.

• To improve local law enforcement’s knowledge of the crime prevention needs of seniors.

• To identify the concerns of local senior citizens.

• To improve senior victim assistance.

• To involve senior citizens in crime prevention and the educational efforts of S.A.L.T. and to raise awareness of the community of these special issues.

Turley said the S.A.L.T. Council activities so far include:

• Monthly programs on issues seniors have identified, such as telemarketing scams, mail theft, fraud, etc.

• Present training for officers on sensitivity issues with Alzheimer’s patients encountered on the streets as lost or missing.

• Created, published and distributed a brochure on Elder Abuse, which raised awareness of the issue and provided local support.

• Refrigerator cards, which list crucial medical and emergency information about a resident with special needs to aid emergency personnel dispatched to the home.

• Neighborhood Watch programs to address the specific concerns of senior neighbors.

For more information about S.A.L.T., call the Pell City Police Department at 205-884-3334.

Detective Doug Whaley with the Talladega Police Department said the department offers an identity theft and scams presentation available free upon request by calling Police Chief Alan Watson at 256-362-5561.

Lt. Mike Gorman, crime prevention officer for the Sylacauga Police Department, said he speaks to senior groups about safety measures upon request.

“It’s free,” he said. “The senior groups just need to call the police department at 256-245-4334 and ask for me.”

Gorman said the department also has a free magazine of safety tips for seniors.

“One of the things I tell seniors is to always have a phone tree,” he said. “If you live by yourself, have someone who checks on you every day. That way it won’t be over a day before someone checks on you if you have a stroke, or fall and can’t get up.”

Area police departments offer a variety of safety tips.

Home Security and Burglary Prevention

Most burglaries occur during daylight hours and many intruders gain access through open or poorly secured doors and windows. To reduce your chance of becoming a victim of burglary:

• Trim trees and shrubs to eliminate hiding places for thieves.

• Keep the exterior of your home well lit, especially where there are doors and windows. Install outside lights equipped with motion detectors to deter burglars and alert others of potential criminal activity.

• Make it difficult for an intruder to enter. Be certain your locks are functioning properly, and that all doors have deadbolts and use them. Make sure windows are locked and cannot be forced open, especially those not in use. Secure basement and attic windows.

• Create and maintain safe and adequate escape routes in every room. Know how to get out fast.

• When away from home, use timers on inside lamps and radios to create the impression of an occupied home. When returning home, give the house a brief visual survey before entering. If anything looks suspicious, call 911 from another location.

• If you have an answering machine your message should not indicate that you live alone. Use the phrase, “We are unable to answer your call at this time.”

• Form a neighborhood watch program and look out for one another.

• Report suspicious activity to the police.

• Ask for photo ID from service or delivery people before letting them in. If you have any reason to doubt, call the company to verify before letting them in.

• Call 911 if needed.

Be Alert When Shopping or Out in the Community:

• Don’t carry credit cards you won’t need or large amounts of cash.

• Go with family, friends or a group, if possible, rather than being alone.

• Carry purses close to the body, not dangling by the straps. Put a wallet in an inside coat or front pants pocket.

• Keep all car doors locked at all times. Be particularly alert in parking lots or garages for people just hanging around. Park near an entrance or exit if possible; there is more traffic at those locations.

• Use direct deposit for any checks you receive regularly, if possible, such as Social Security, retirement payments, etc.

• If someone or something makes you feel uneasy, trust your instincts and leave the area. If necessary, move to where there are large groups of people.

• Never carry your Social Security card in your wallet or purse. If your wallet or purse is lost or stolen, these can possibly be used in an identity fraud.

Elder Abuse:

Being hurt or controlled may mean you are being abused. There are many types of elder abuse, including physical, sexual, psychological, financial and neglect.

Watch for these indicators of abuse:

• Injuries such as cuts, bruises, difficulty walking or sitting can be symptoms of physical or sexual abuse.

• Withdrawn or fearful behavior can be associated with psychological abuse.

• Family members or friends suddenly involved in decisions pertaining to money matters may mean trouble.

• Poor provision of nutritional and hygiene needs can point to neglect.

How to take action:

• Help yourself and help others who are less likely to protect themselves. If in doubt, notify the Department of Family and Children Services, law enforcement in your area, or call 911.

Frauds and Scams

Every year billions of dollars are lost to fraudulent activities. Scams are conducted over the telephone, by mail, the Internet and door-to-door. Often, you will be pressured into donating or purchasing right now. Prizes, vacations, charities, club memberships or investments can be a front used by con artists.

• Legitimate organizations do not require immediate response and should provide you with information in the mail.

• Take your time and have others review information with you.

• Never give your credit card number over the phone unless you initiate the call and know whom you are calling.

• If someone will not let you get off the phone, hang up.

• Familiarize yourself with an organization by asking for references.

• Ask a lot of questions.

• Be cautious of anyone claiming, “You will never get another opportunity like this.”

• If the offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.

• Don’t let anyone rush you into signing anything — a policy, contract or agreement. Read these documents over carefully and have someone you trust check them.

• Beware of anyone claiming to represent companies, consumer organizations or government agencies that offer to recover lost money from fraudulent telemarketers for a fee. As a twist on this same theme, cons sometimes pretend to be officials trying to catch a thief with your assistance. Never go along with these schemes.

• Do not respond to mail scams stating that you have won money or requesting you to call a number.

• Never give out personal information over the phone or the Internet.

Fire Safety

Protect yourself and your home from fires with these helpful tips:

• Test your smoke detectors once a month to make sure they work. Replace smoke detector batteries once a year.

• Keep a fire extinguisher and carbon monoxide detector on every floor in the house.

• Plan and practice a home fire drill. Make a map showing the exits from every room.

• Obtain an escape ladder for bedrooms on the second floor and higher. Make sure windows can be opened easily from the inside if needed for escape.

• Make sure burners are turned off after use.

• Keep and store flammable materials in a safe place.

• Eliminate fire hazards in your home, such as piles of paper, smoking in bed, etc. Trust your instincts. If you suspect trouble, call 911 and ask for assistance.