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TRIAD Helps Senior Citizens Avoid Victimization

FARMVILLE – The mission to prevent senior citizens from becoming crime victims has more than a leg to stand on.

TRIAD is a three-legged approach from the Attorney General's office that has seen local law enforcement, senior citizens, and groups serving seniors successfully join forces into an effective trio.

“It's a joint effort between law enforcement, senior citizens, and the groups that serve seniors, such as social services, AARP, Crossroads Services Board, anybody that interacts with seniors on a regular basis,” explained local TRIAD chairman, Bill Hogan, who is a sergeant in the Farmville Police Department.

“It's the three groups coming together to try and reduce the victimization of senior citizens. They're becoming more and more susceptible to crime,” he told The Herald in advance of next week's quarterly TRIAD meeting-Friday, December 9 at 1 p.m. at the Farmville Moose Lodge, focusing on Medicaid fraud and holiday safety.

The susceptibility of senior citizens is a combination of their time on Earth and the age in which they were raised.

“Number one, they were brought up in a different age, more trusting. When they were raised,” Sgt. Hogan said, “somebody's word was their bond and nowadays that's not the case, unfortunately.

“They also worked all their lives, so they hopefully have a little bit of a nest egg and got some money. And that's what (criminals) target. They go where the money is,” Sgt. Hogan pointed out.

The major threat to senior citizens is scams.

Phone scams.

Letter scams.

Lottery scams.

Or scammers offering to do construction work-pave a driveway or fix a roof, for example-and, Sgt. Hogan said, “they go in and see what they've got and come in later and steal it or cheat them out of a bunch of money.”

That's where TRIAD comes in.

“TRIAD's main job is to basically get the word out so they can be aware of what's going on so they can protect themselves. That's our main focus-to reduce crime amongst the senior citizen population,” the police sergeant explained.

The current organization in Prince Edward has been up and running for just over two years now, picking up where a previous attempt in the county left off.

“Two years ago, we all came together with the attorney general's office, and TRIAD is based out of the attorney general's office. So the attorney general's office sent a representative down here to sign an agreement together saying, 'Hey, this is what we're going to do, work together to try and reduce crime amongst the elderly and we go from there.'”

Prince Edward is one of 226 cities, counties and towns in Virginia with signed TRIAD agreements, according to the attorney general's office.

That local reorganization of TRIAD in August of 2009 saw the Farmville Police Department, the Prince Edward County Sheriff's Department, the Prince Edward County Department of Social Services, Hospice of Virginia, Crossroads Community Services Board, and Piedmont Senior Services/Area Agency on Aging come together around guidance from the Virginia attorney general's office.

Senior citizen representatives include Minerva Venable and Shirley Mottley and since 2009 the Prince Edward County Commonwealth's Attorney's Office, Helton House, Centra Hospice, Trinity Mission and Home Care Delivered have joined the team.

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli came to Farmville in October and congratulated the Prince Edward County TRIAD SALT council on its two-year anniversary, stressing the group's vital role in putting crime prevention information into the hands of senior citizens and combating their victimization.

Each TRIAD chapter has a SALT (Seniors and Law Enforcement Together) Council that acts as the governing board and planning committee for its local TRIAD.

“We've been having meetings almost quarterly, county-wide meetings open to the public. And we've had meetings on scams, had meetings on senior safety, like personal safety-what to do if somebody tries to mug you. We've had meetings on elder abuse,” Sgt. Hogan noted.

TRIAD has embraced a creative hands-on approach to help reach its goal.

During the last meeting, senior citizens solved a crime and on next Friday they will practice using fire extinguishers.

“The last one, that really got a big response. Folks really liked it…We had a little whodunit type deal and we put on a little crime scene and a little scenario,” Sgt. Hogan said, “and we showed them exactly how we lift fingerprints, how we collect DNA, what we do with it once we collect it, how it's used to help solve a crime and we put all the pieces of the puzzle together-they put the pieces together-and they solved the crime.”

Fun, yes, but solving the whodunit taught two very practical lessons.

“It does two things. It lets them know, should they become victims of crime, what to touch, what not to touch, oh, this could be evidence, I won't fool with that,” the police sergeant detailed.

“It also lets them know that CSI is television and it (solving a case) doesn't happen overnight. Sometimes it takes six months to get a DNA hit back. That's the average right now,” he said. “Just to let them know what the process is, how it works. They seemed to really like that. They liked the hands-on.”

On next Friday, December 9, at the Moose Lodge at 1409 Longwood Avenue, Randy Davis, from the attorney general's office, will present a program on Medicaid fraud.

During his October visit to Farmville, Attorney General Cuccinelli had discussed the work of the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit in his office. During a time of government cutbacks and reduction in services, this has been the only unit in the Attorney General's office to actually grow during the last several years, Cuccinelli pointed out, and has successfully prosecuted those found to be cheating the Medicaid system, returning over $14 Million to the Commonwealth.

“And with the holidays coming up…the Farmville fire department's going to be there, talking about some fire safety during the holidays-people are cooking, people are stringing up lights, they're plugging too many things into one receptacle, and we're going to talk about some general holiday safety tips,” Sgt. Hogan said.

And that includes the popular hands-on approach.

“The fire department's actually going to bring some fire extinguishers and let them pull the pin and squeeze the handle and spray it because most people have never used a fire extinguisher,” he observed, “and when your house is burning down is not the time to be reading the directions.”

The fire department has training fire extinguishers for TRIAD attendees to practice with next week.

“It can be a dangerous time of year,” Sgt. Hogan said, “for fires. It's not necessarily crime related but it's safety-related. So we think it's something important that everybody needs to know.”

More than 100 people attended the last TRIAD meeting, some even from Mecklenburg and Appomattox Counties, but Sgt. Hogan would like to see more Prince Edward County residents attend on December 9.

There will be snacks and door prizes.

“It's just a fun time,” the police sergeant said.

With a serious goal.

“Get the information out there and hopefully it helps somebody.”

Giving senior citizens more than a leg to stand on when it comes to crime prevention.