Safe In Place Program designed to increase the safety and well-being of Senior Citizens

Submitted by Fernandina Beach Police Chief James Hurley and City Grants Administrator Lorelei Jacobs
July 11, 2018 4:00 p.m.

The late Police Chaplain Don McFadyen

With the passing of Senior Police Chaplain Don McFadyen on April 21stthe Fernandina Beach Police Department lost a truly remarkable volunteer member.  Chaplain McFadyen served the men and women of the police department, as well as our residents and visitors, for more than twenty-one years in his caring and compassionate style.  As a police chaplain he was always there to provide counsel to police officers and their families in times of need and also assisted community members involved in traumatic situations.  He was a founding member of the Police Auxiliary Corps (PAC) and was named an original board member in 2008.  Our members take some comfort and shared resolve in knowing that Chaplain McFadyen’s shining example of service, ministry, and community will continue to lead and inspire the work of the Police Foundation and the Police Auxiliary Corps (PAC) far into the future.

It is in the tradition of Chaplain McFadyen’s life of service to those in need that we have partnered with the Nassau County Council on Aging, the Barnabas Center, and Seniors vs Crime to plan a new elderly citizen outreach safety program, to be called Safe In Place.  Here are a few of the reasons why the new Safe In Place program is critically needed to help protect some of Fernandina Beach’s most vulnerable citizens.

Most Americans are generally aware that throughout the United States, older citizen populations are significantly increasing, both by count, and by percent of the total population.  The number of Americans aged 65 and older is projected to more than double between 2014 and 2060 and will increase from 15% of the total U.S. population to 25%By 2060, almostone out of every four U.S. citizens will be age 65 or older.

Specialty risks faced by the elderly

Frequently, as physical or mental impediments increase, senior citizen contacts within their community begin to diminish.  Family may not live nearby, leaving some senior citizens effectively housebound.  As health begins to fail and social isolation grows, senior citizens become increasingly vulnerable to crime and abuse, neglect, malnourishment, and accidental injury.

Although senior citizen poverty is a growing problem, senior citizens, as a group, are also most likely to have a “nest egg”, own their home, and have excellent credit.  According to the U.S. Department of Justice, financial scams targeting senior citizens are increasing dramatically. According to the FBI’s 2017 Internet Crime Report, persons over age 60 are the most likely to become victims of cybercrime than any other age group.  Criminals contact seniors through repeated phone calls, e-mails, regular mail or even home visits.  In the U.S., almosthalf of women (46%) age 75 or older live alone. According to the FBI, “If you are age 60 or older—and especially if you are an older woman living alone—you may be a special target of people who sell bogus products and services by telephone.”  Financialscams steal an estimated $3 billion dollars from seniors each year. Home invasion robberies of senior citizens are also increasing, in which heartless thieves force their way into vulnerable homes to terrorize residents into providing access to financial accounts and hidden valuables.  In addition to the criminal acts of strangers, tragically, elderly victims frequently suffer abuse or neglect by family members and caregivers

Many elderly victims never reach out to police, or social service providers, due to intimidation by offenders, embarrassment over the event, lack of social support, or confusion about what has occurred.  The elderly may also resist contacting police or social service agencies due to fear about being removed from their homes forcibly, or having driving privileges revoked. As a result, a small percentage of elderly victims will report abuse.  In 2013, the National Center for Elder Abuse estimated that less than 5% of individuals over the age of 65 who are victims of crime report their victimization to the police. 

Fernandina Beach’s Elderly Population

In 2010, more than one in five (22.3%) of Fernandina Beach residents was aged 65 or older (U.S. Census).  OfFernandina Beach’s 2,778 senior citizens, 34% are veterans, 25% live alone, and 17% have an annual income less than $20,000 dollars.  Of local residents aged 60 and older, 44% were on food stamps in the last year (Fernandina Beach, FL Senior Guide).

Fernandina Beach police officers become aware of “invisible” elderly victimization through informal communications with citizens and social service groups, or when responding to calls for service.   As a result of FBPD’s increased awareness that much elderly victimization goes unreported, for several years, FBPD officers have used the “community policing” model to increase outreach to housebound elderly citizens.  Police officers patrolling, responding to calls, or attending community meetings, now routinely inquire about the presence and well-being of elderly residents in the area.  As part of this expanded senior citizen outreach, the Fernandina Beach Police Department (FBPD) partners with the Nassau County Council on Aging (COA), which provides public transportation, home health services, home-delivered meals, and two senior life centers for senior citizens.  Through this partnership, COA staff provides FBPD officers with information about individuals they fear may be being abused or otherwise victimized, triggering FBPD officers to make friendly wellness checks on the elderly to assess if help is needed.  Additionally, these contacts provide the opportunity for officers to discuss scams such as “the Grandparent Scam” and other financial frauds targeting older citizens.  By providing this vulnerable population with the reassurance and support they often need to report victimization, previously-hidden crimes are brought to light, so offenders can be stopped.

Safe In Place:  A New Level of Protection for Fernandina Beach’s Senior Citizens

The Fernandina Beach Police Auxiliary Corps (PAC) is an organization of citizen volunteers trained to provide enhanced citizen safety and programming at no additional cost to residents or visitors. The PAC currently has sixty-two (62) volunteer members provide community services on a regular basis.

The mission of the new Safe In Placeprogram is to create a program in which Fernandina Beach Police Auxiliary Corps (PAC) members develop and maintain informative relationships with Fernandina Beach’s elderly citizens, especially those who are housebound, so that safety issues experienced by senior citizens are discovered and resolved.  Stated more succinctly, the program’s mission is to help Fernandina Beach’s elderly residents staysafe in place.  Goals of the Safe In Place program are:

Goal 1:     To increase the identification of criminal, medical, social, spiritual, and environmental safety issues experienced by Fernandina Beach’s housebound elderly citizens, including violence, exploitation, neglect, social isolation, early onset dementia, malnutrition, and unsafe housing.

Goal 2:   To bring together new government, police, business, citizen, church, and social service collaborations to resolve elderly citizen needs uncovered through Safe in Place.

Manpower for the program is currently provided by the volunteer Police Auxiliary Corps (PAC).   The Nassau County Council on Aging has agreed to provide medical and other services to citizens referred to the COA by Safe in Place activities, and to provide training for PAC members.  FBPD officers will provide enhanced police services to citizens that Safe in Place volunteers fear are victims of crime.  The Fernandina Beach Seniors vs Crime volunteers will assist senior citizens discovered through Safe In Place who are victimized by unscrupulous contractors, repairmen, or other individuals.

 

Safe In Place members Lee Collins, Susan Whitman, and Gary Eversole, with our new program vehicle, a Ford Edge purchasedat Paul Clark Ford. The vehicle with be detailed with Safe In Place and Police Auxiliary Corps decals and readied for operation this week.

The Fernandina Beach Police Foundation has been conducting a fund raising campaign over the past several weeks for the purpose of providing support to help launch the new Safe In Place program.  A vehicle was needed to carry out the program’s activities, and a recent grant from the First Presbyterian Church Endowment Fund in the amount of $10,000.00 provided the majority of the funding needed to purchase the vehicle for the program participants.  Taco Bell also added $5000.00 from their foundation and a vehicle was purchased last week so that this program can begin in earnest immediately. The vehicle will be used by PAC members, and Fernandina Beach Police Chaplains, to conduct wellness checks of senior citizens, provide limited transportation services for the elderly, and to deliver other types of assistance to a minimum of five at-risk elderly persons each day, or thirty-five (35) wellness checks each week.

We believe that the Safe In Place program is needed to uncover and resolve the victimization, neglect, and isolation being experienced by some of our city’s elderly housebound citizens. Furthermore, it is the intention of the Safe In Place partners that the program goals, strategies and outcomes are documented, to encourage other communities to similarly take action to reduce senior citizen crime and neglect.  We also believe that it is only through collaboration between caring and generous stakeholders that our collective community quality of life can be preserved, especially for our senior population.

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