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Protecting Residents From Crime

October 1, 2003
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An introduction to Senior Crimestoppers BY RICHARD L. PECK, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Protecting Residents From Crime

The Senior Crimestoppers program puts staff on the case in stopping crime within its ranks

BY RICHARD L. PECK, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
  • A night-shift employee is fired and placed on charges after admitting he was responsible for bruises found on a new resident's legs.

  • A medical supply clerk is fired and a vendor's sales representative is reported to his company after it's discovered that the clerk, who is romantically involved with the salesman, is purchasing excess adult diapers and handing the excess out the back door to the salesman for his personal resale.
  • What these cases have in common is that the perpetrators were reported on by their staff colleagues. These individuals called in their tips to a special hotline that preserves caller anonymity but guarantees follow-up on calls and, beyond that, offers rewards worth hundreds of dollars for the information, no questions asked. This, in essence, is how Senior Crime-stoppers works.

    Begun in 1994, it is the brainchild of Charles King, a former Memphis, Tennessee, banker who had a threefold objective: (1) to assist the nursing home industry in raising its public image and addressing nursing home crime; (2) to provide safe, secure, crime-free living and working environments for residents and staff; and (3) to help his bank meet its obligations under federal law.

    King's bank, along with all federally chartered banks, is required by federal banking mandates to invest a share of its profits in community improvement projects. "But," says King, "our bank was expanding rapidly and had flunked the test." King saw a way both to restore his bank's good standing and do good for the vulnerable residents of local nursing homes. In short, the bank would put up reward money for phoned-in tips, later substantiated, on crimes perpetrated against residents and staff members of long-term care facilities.

    Word quickly spread from the Memphis area to across the nation, after the U.S. Comptroller of the Currency allowed long-term care residences to qualify for these rewards funded by banks. Senior Crimestoppers has since signed on with some 7,000 senior care properties, ranging from nursing homes to assisted living residences to HUD housing.

    Senior Crimestoppers functions primarily as a conduit of information, says King: "We take the calls, we forward the information to facility management, and we assist in lining up a police investigation (without media involvement) if we are so requested." The primary components of Senior Crimestoppers are a membership charter, signifying a "zero tolerance of crime" platform; personal lockboxes for the safekeeping of residents' personal items; ongoing education and in-service training that maximize the program's deterrence aspect; a "tipsline" call center staffed 24/7, providing an anonymous outlet for all callers; and the program's cash reward bank, allowing every incident reported by a participating facility to be assigned an immediate cash reward of up to $1,000.

    The organization also tracks the results of the cases called in and reports that participating facilities saw an 85% reduction in criminal incidents and a 97.2% conviction rate for those accused. "In our in-services," says King, "we emphasize to staff that this program is for them, at least in part, in that it helps them stop those individuals who are giving them and all nursing homes a bad name. And the message goes out to those who would do harm, that: (a) you will likely get caught, and (b) you will very likely be convicted and punished."

    The best result, though, is for residents (and their families), who can feel at least a little more secure in their homes away from home, with staff incentivized by Senior Crimestoppers. NH


    For further information, phone (800) 529-9096 or visit www.seniorcrimestoppers.org. To comment on this article, please send e-mail to 2peck1003@nursinghomesmagazine.com.
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