Elder abuse reports, particularly involving financial exploitation of older adults, have grown dramatically in volume since 2009.
Reports come to the Johnson County District Attorney’s Office from numerous sources, including the Adult Protective Service (APS) of the Kansas Department of Children and Families, from family members of the abused adults, financial institutions, the courts, and by private attorneys.
The DA’s protocol for handling this increased volume has been to conduct training with local law enforcement agencies to help them investigate reports of elder abuse, and in many cases, assign one of the DA criminal investigators to assist the local agency in the investigation.
In cases where medical records of the victim are involved, the DA will often put together a Financial Abuse Specialist Team (FAST) that includes a volunteer medical professional, a detective in the city where the offense has taken place, an Assistant District Attorney, APS, a DA investigator, and, when appropriate, an investigator with the involved financial institution.
This multi-disciplinary approach allows for a more comprehensive investigation with more resources, and is helpful in resolving financial exploitation cases that have complex medical, behavioral, and financial attributes that have to be addressed for successful prosecution. Many cases are handled by the local police agency on their own, or by DA investigators, which is typical when the medical and behavioral aspects of the case are established before the offense takes place.
Elder Abuse Awareness Day is being observed locally and nationally on Sunday, June 15.
Reports of elder abuse are typically made directly to APS via their 24/7 hotline (800-922-5330), who will conduct a preliminary investigation, and if a criminal offense is suspected, APS will refer the case to the local police agency.
The District Attorney is provided copies of all reports referred to police agencies in Johnson County so that assistance on those cases can be provided by the DA’s Office when requested by local law enforcement. When elder abuse is suspected, the local police department can be contacted and a complaint filed with them, or by contacting the Adult Protective Service at the hotline number provided above.
If there are questions if abuse is taking place, the District Attorney operates a white-collar crime hotline at 913-715-3140, and an investigator can assess the nature of the complaint and assist the caller in proper reporting of the offense.
As noted, the volume of offenses has increased tremendously in the past five years, and can be attributed to not only the aging population in the county, but also to increased unemployment among people inside and outside of Johnson County that have access to elderly victims with financial resources. The volume of reports is expected to grow larger with a recent change in Kansas criminal statutes that broadened the definition of financial exploitation and victims.