SEATTLE – Local law enforcement agencies are seeing a disturbing number of crimes committed against some of the state’s most vulnerable targets: the elderly and those with mental or physical disabilities.
Attorney General Rob McKenna, along with the King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg and Assistant Secretary Kathy Leitch of the Department of Social and Health Services today announced a series of new proposals aimed at bringing abusers to justice, preventing mistreatment and ending financial exploitation.
“Vulnerable adults are often isolated and in poor health, making them easy targets for criminals,” McKenna said. “As our population ages and the pool of potential victims grows, we have to find new ways to protect our loved ones and fellow citizens.”
Appearing at an assisted living facility in Seattle, McKenna outlined legislative fixes developed over the last year by his office’s Vulnerable Adult Initiative, a statewide coalition of law enforcement officers, social workers, caregivers and advocates for vulnerable adults. The proposal would:
- Add mandatory sentencing enhancements (with medical exceptions) for crimes against victims over age 65 or who meet the definition of a vulnerable adult in Chapter 74.34 RCW, Abuse of Vulnerable Adults Act.
- Make employees of financial institutions mandatory reporters of the financial exploitation of vulnerable adults, since many times these employees are the only witnesses to potential financial exploitation.
- Strengthen protections for vulnerable adults by clarifying definitions in the vulnerable adult statutes and by improving coordination between reporters of abuse, law enforcement and Adult Protective Services in the relevant RCW (74.34).
- Allow for greater public disclosure of Adult Protective Services information reports about abuse, abandonment and other forms of vulnerable adult abuse or neglect so family members can better research caregivers.
- Create a publicly searchable database of perpetrators of vulnerable adult abuse and neglect.
The state’s Adult Protective Services (APS) program received 13,551 reports of abuse, abandonment, neglect, self-neglect and financial exploitation in 2007 alone. In 2006, APS received more reports of allegations of financial exploitation against vulnerable adults than any other kind of mistreatment.
The Attorney General invited more than 100 experts from around the state to participate in a Vulnerable Adult Summit on June 1, 2007, in Tumwater. The participants were selected from throughout the state to represent communities large and small, rural, urban, eastern and western.
Immediately following the summit in June of 2007, the Attorney General formed work groups to begin the process of identifying viable solutions to the challenges identified by participants. Again professionals from around the state were invited to participate in a series of meetings to identify solutions. Their final reports were presented on May 9, 2008.
Janelle Guthrie, AGO Communications Director, (360) 586-0725