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New investigation center announced to combat 'explosion' of elder abuse in Central Virginia

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Posted at 6:28 PM, Jun 17, 2024

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- As Virginia's population ages, instances of elder abuse — where someone preys on an elderly person in a vulnerable situation — are on the rise too, according to Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares.

At the Shady Grove YMCA Monday, Miyares joined local prosecutors and police to announce the first Elder Abuse Investigation Center in Central Virginia.

The center will streamline collaboration between law enforcement, connect investigators with medical or financial experts who can better solve complex cases, and provide localities with other resources.

"We’ve seen an explosion of elder abuse in just the last couple of years in our society," Miyares said.

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Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares

“In 2004, as a detective, we saw maybe 100 cases a year. Now in Henrico, we see over 700 cases a year of just elder abuse, neglect, and financial abuse," said Major Chris Eley with Henrico County Police.

Many times, the only witness to elder abuse is the abuser, Miyares said. Plus, financial or medical cases can stretch thin local agencies, who do not have the resources or time to devote to cases like this.

"We can’t just run out and have a dedicated person to go out and go through financial records, go through medical records. That requires expertise, and these cases can be very, very time consuming," said Mackenzie Babichecnko, the Hanover County Commonwealth Attorney.

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Mackenzie Babichecnko, Hanover County Commonwealth Attorney

With ever-evolving technology, scammers are becoming more and more complex in their deception. Miyares said their office has received reports of scammers using artificial intelligence to target and financially exploit seniors.

“We had an incident of someone that had taken a video of their grandchild online and called them up using artificial technology posing as their grandchild. Saying, unfortunately, I had a little bit too much fun this weekend, MawMaw, I got arrested with a drunk in public charge, I need you to wire $1,500 to bail me out. It’s that effective," Miyares said.

Physical or medical abuse cases have increased as well, and in many instances, the abuser is a caregiver, which is why Miyares said loved ones should pay attention to possible signs of elder abuse and report it.

“Somebody that is elderly is 300 times more like to be abused by a caregiver," Miyares said. "Oftentimes, the only way you get wind of it is another family member, who’s maybe living across the country, they become aware of it. But that’s overwhelmingly what we see is abuse by a caretaker, either a family member or a health care worker.”

Here are a few signs of elder abuse to look out for, according to law enforcement:

  • Burns, welts, scratches, bruises, cuts
  • Fractures, dislocations, sprains
  • Restrained, tied to bed or chair
  • Mistrust of others
  • Unsanitary or unsafe housing
  • Inappropriate or inadequate clothing
  • Malnourished
  • Lacks needed supervision
  • Untreated medical condition
  • Lacks needed dentures, glasses, hearing aids or medication

"Don’t think and hope for the best; don’t be afraid to check on your loved ones," Miyares said.
Anyone can report possible elder abuse to the Attorney General's Office at (804) 786-207 or by visiting their website. You can also report suspected abuse to local law enforcement.

Richmond, Colonial Heights, Chesterfield, Henrico, Hopewell, Hanover, Powhatan, and Goochland are all part of the Elder Abuse Investigation Center coalition.

Depend on CBS 6 News and WTVR.com for in-depth coverage of this important local story. Anyone with more information can email newstips@wtvr.com to send a tip.

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