Group gives seniors tips on crime prevention

April 26, 2007|by PEPPER BALLARD

Trusting others came naturally to Wayne Taylor when he was a youngster, but the retired fraud investigator has grown wary of unfamiliar faces.

The 74-year-old man encourages people his age to be less trusting, too.

As president of Seniors and Law Enforcement Together (S.A.L.T.) Council - which is part of the Triad organization in Washington County - Taylor works with about 20 senior citizens and a police adviser to schedule seminars on various crime-related topics and coordinate outreach programs aimed at benefiting seniors.

The council is one of its kind in the immediate area. Police in some neighboring counties in West Virginia and Pennsylvania said they don't have an organized group such as Triad, but have in the past, and would on request hold seminars on crime-prevention topics of interest to senior citizens.

Washington County Sheriff's Department Deputy 1st Class Jim Holsinger, police adviser to S.A.L.T., said the 11-year-old local Triad program began as part of a national Triad initiative among The National Sheriff's Association, The International Association of Chiefs of Police and AARP.


"The whole idea from the law enforcement perspective: We want to exercise victim protection ... Seniors have a different way of looking at the world," he said. "When they were coming through life, there was a little more trust."

Holsinger said the group spends a lot of time talking about ways seniors can protect against identity theft and frauds, but also talks about issues revolving around drugs, gangs and the vulnerability of those with Alzheimer's disease.

"A while back, we did a presentation on illegal drugs," Holsinger said. "They wanted to talk about what's going on and finding signs and symptoms in their grand-children."

Although the group has not been trained to physically fight against crime, Holsinger said its members often discuss how to protect against purse snatchings and muggings, among other crimes.

"What we will try to do is give them tips on how to tactically protect themselves," Holsinger said. "Some seniors are very physically fit ... We tell them all that they need to assess themselves. We do tell them that there is nothing that they carry that is worth their lives."

Shirley Aurand, who is vice president of the group, said she has become more guarded since joining S.A.L.T.

"I watch out around my house. I pay more attention when I'm riding through town. I make sure my doors are locked and that my purse is not in view and things like that," Aurand said.

Pennsylvania State Police Trooper 1st Class Edward Asbury and Waynesboro Police Department Chief Ray Shultz said that officers with their departments have talked with groups of senior citizens on request.

"We do cons and frauds, identity theft, seat-belt safety, safe driving - it just depends," Asbury said. "Right now, identity theft is a big concern."

Police are concerned that seniors might be embarrassed about being victimized and not report crimes against them to police, Asbury said.

West Virginia State Police Sgt. Craig Morton said his department doesn't sponsor any particular programs geared toward seniors, but said officers "stringently enforce and investigate any crimes against the elderly."

"At times, state police focuses a little bit more on children than we do on the elderly," Morton said.

S.A.L.T. meets the first Tuesday of every month except July and August at 2 p.m. in the patrol room of the Washington County Sheriff's Department. The group coordinates volunteer activities, special events and determines which topics will be covered in its periodic seminars, which typically are held at the AMVETS on Frederick Street.

The group also runs programs such as Seniors Calling Seniors, which is a telephone reassurance program; Project Lifesaver, a program for tracking vulnerable adults and children; and the Comfort Doll program.

Triad also participates in the 911 Cell Bank program, which recycles used cell phones, Holsinger said.

Triad is not funded by any government body, but has received money from area organizations, some affiliated with government, Holsinger said.

If you want to join

Anyone interested in joining the group may call S.A.L.T. Council for Triad of Washington County President Wayne Taylor at 301-739-0907 or Washington County Sheriff's Department Deputy 1st Class Jim Holsinger at 240-313-2194.

S.A.L.T. meets the first Tuesday of every month except July and August at 2 p.m. in the patrol room of the Washington County Sheriff's Department, at 500 Western Maryland Parkway.

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