District Attorney George Gascón Launches Citywide Elder Financial Abuse Prevention Campaign

May 1, 2012

CONTACT: Stephanie Ong Stillman, DA Gascón’s Office, (415) 553-1167

ADA Alex Bastian, DA Gascón’s Office, (415) 553-1931

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – District Attorney George Gascón was at the San Francisco Senior Center in the Tenderloin today to launch a citywide multilingual elder financial abuse prevention campaign. He was joined by representatives from the San Francisco Elder Abuse Forensic Center, San Francisco Senior Center, Adult Protective Services, and Kimochi Senior Center.

“Elder financial abuse is an invisible crime because it often goes unnoticed and unreported. It can result in the loss of one’s sustenance, housing and livelihood,” said District Attorney George Gascón. “Reporting elder financial abuse will save lives.”

San Francisco has one of the highest concentrations of seniors living independently, and is home to an increasingly aging population. In fact, according to the 2010 Census, 14% (or 112,833) of San Francisco’s population is 65 or older and is expected to grow by 100% by the year 2020. These older adults include a high concentration of non-English speaking seniors, LGBT seniors, and a higher than average percentage of individuals with disabilities.

The new campaign ads feature the tag line, “Elder Financial Abuse. The Invisible Crime” and include statistics about the growing rate of elder financial abuse. Elder financial abuse is an under-recognized and under-reported crime because a victim may not even know someone is stealing from them, or be so embarrassed that they stay silent. Perpetrators of elder financial abuse are typically not strangers and most are people who have gained the trust of the senior, including business and service professionals and family members. It is estimated that 200,000 seniors in California are financially abused each year and as few as 1 in 25 cases of elder financial abuse are reported. San Francisco’s Adult Protective Services estimates that a majority of elder abuse cases go unreported.

The public awareness campaign will be concentrated in bus shelters and on MUNI buses over the next four weeks. It will be comprised of 660 interior and bustail ads and 40 bus shelter ads. Campaign posters will be provided to public and non-profit partners for wider distribution. The ads are being run in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Russian.

The total cost of the one-month public awareness campaign is $25,000. Funding for the campaign is being provided by a $300,000, multi-year grant from the United States Department of Justice that was secured by the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office in 2009 to enhance its elder abuse education, prevention and prosecution efforts.

The public awareness campaign is part of the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office’s ongoing work to prevent and prosecute crimes against seniors. The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office handles elder abuse cases involving both financial crimes and physical abuse against seniors.

Since 2008 the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, The Institute on Aging, the San Francisco Police Department and the San Francisco Department of Aging and Adult Services, a division of the Human Services Agency, which operates Adult Protective Services (APS) for the county have been partners in the San Francisco Elder Forensic Center. With a combination of private and City funding secured by the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office and the Institute on Aging, the Elder Forensic Center brings these agencies together to prevent delays and gaps in service coordination, evidence collection and criminal investigation that could otherwise negatively affect the outcome for victims of abuse.

"The goal of the Elder Forensic Center is to prevent and combat elder abuse in San Francisco by improving communication and coordination of investigations; increasing opportunities for justice for those who have been wronged; and educating the public and professionals about elder abuse prevention and intervention,” said Talitha Guinn, Director, San Francisco Elder Abuse Forensic Center.

The newly launched campaign encourages all people to report any suspected abuse against a senior. This can be done anonymously by calling 415-355-6700.