County has federal help against elder abuse

Pierce County has been awarded $370,985 from the U.S. Department of Justice to help deal with elder abuse.

The county prosecutor’s office, which secured one of the nine grants that were allocated nationwide, will team with local law enforcement agencies and victim service organizations to increase and strengthen training, form a community response team and provide access to victim services.

“We are leading an effort to bring stakeholders together,” said Prosecuting Attorney Mark Lindquist. “This will make our community safer for our elderly citizens.”

Over the next three years, police, prosecutors and judges will receive specialized training in recognizing, investigating and prosecuting instances of abuse, neglect, exploitation, domestic violence and sexual assault against elderly victims, Lindquist said. Local organizations and government agencies that work with and provide support services for elderly victims will also receive training.

“Historically, elder abuse cases have slipped through the cracks because law enforcement, prosecutors and service providers lacked the training and resources to respond effectively,” said Erika Nohavec, a deputy prosecutor who heads the county’s elder abuse team. “This grant project is designed to fill in the gaps so we can respond to elder abuse in a way that is focused on victim safety and offender accountability.”

The grant funds will go toward a coordinated community response team that will develop a plan for responding to elder abuse. Officials said the team will be able to quickly respond to victim safety concerns, connect victims to vital services, preserve evidence and apprehend perpetrators.

Agencies and organizations participating in the project include the county’s Sheriff Department, Superior and District courts and Community Connections Aging and Disability Resources, Adult Protection Services, the police departments of Tacoma, Lakewood and

University Place, Korean Women’s Association, Crystal Judson Family Justice Center, Lakewood Municipal Court and Puyallup Tribe’s Elder Services and Wellness Center.

The prosecutor’s office formed an elder abuse unit in 2011 to focus on prosecuting crimes against elderly citizens. Since then, nearly 250 cases have been prosecuted, Lindquist said.

Elderly victims are often targeted because they are trusting, may have declining health and memory, and are often hesitant to report abuse, especially if the offender is a family member, according to officials.

Pierce County wants to "make our community safer for our elderly," says Prosecuting Attorney Mark Lindquist.
Pierce County wants to “make our community safer for our elderly,” says Prosecuting Attorney Mark Lindquist.