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Clear Spring seniors get safety tips

June 16, 1997

By MARLO BARNHART

Staff Writer

CLEAR SPRING - For a guy, Randy Rourke knows an awful lot about what's in a woman's purse.

But the Hagerstown City Police crime prevention officer has to know such things if he's going teach safety effectively.

"A woman's purse is like a landfill - everything heavy goes to the bottom,'' Rourke said, only partly in jest.

He stressed that woman going to their cars should always have their keys out and ready instead of letting them settle to the bottom of their purses.

"That key in your hand can also be a weapon,'' Rourke pointed out.

Rourke spoke to about a dozen seniors and others last week at the Clear Spring Town Hall. His appearance was arranged by Triad and the local SALT Council (Seniors and Law Enforcement Together).

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"We are offering these programs for seniors so we can address their fears,'' said Mary Della Toffalo, president of the SALT Council.

In addition to talks, the group also provides medication refrigerator cards and a calling program where seniors are called to check on their safety in their homes, Della Toffalo said.

Rourke reassured the seniors at the meeting that 90 percent of the crime in America is property crime. Thieves break into homes and cars and steal valuables, usually when the owners aren't around.

"When you get older, you begin to depend on others more,'' Rourke said.

And that's where seniors sometimes fall prey to schemes.

He advised the seniors to be very careful with home repair offers, driveway sealers and roofers who sometimes take money up front and then don't do the work.

"These thieves target seniors because they figure you worked all your life and you have money,'' Rourke said.

Suspicious telephone callers can be unmasked if the intended victim pushes (star) 69 on the telephone to get the number or (star) 57 to trace the calls.

He added that once "taken'' by a schemer, seniors should get over their embarassment and call the police.

"If you call, you might save another senior from falling for the same scam,'' Rourke said.

Other tips included:

  • using initials, not first name in phone book and on mail box
  • be careful with messages on answering machines - don't advertise that you live alone or are away
  • always talk in "we's'' on machine so caller thinks more than one person lives there
  • when you're out, keep purse over shoulder but held in front of you, not around your neck
  • men should keep their wallet in front, not back pocket
  • don't carry checkbook - thieves can tear out checks in the back and you won't even know it until it's too late
  • don't write PIN on your ATM card
  • don't carry more than you can afford to lose


For more information on similar programs or other SALT and Triad activities for seniors, call 301-791-3300, ext. 553, or 301-739-8577, ext. 272

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