Task force helping investigate rise in crimes against the elderl - WSFA.com: News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

Task force helping investigate rise in crimes against the elderly

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MONTGOMERY CO., AL (WSFA) -

A new task force has been created in response to a rising number of crimes against the elderly in Montgomery County.

One such case involved a Montgomery woman tied up and robbed in her home in the Garden District by the man who cut her lawn.

The home invasion happened on May 30, 2014 around 10 AM. Montgomery detectives say the 78-year-old victim heard a knock on her door and saw 18-year-old Antonio Sanders on her doorstep- the man she trusted to do her yard work. According to police, Sanders forced his way in and forced the victim down a small hallway, getting her on the ground and tying her up with a cell phone cord. An investigator testified during Sanders' preliminary hearing last week that he told the woman he wasn't going to hurt her but he held a gun to her and took her purse, as well as the rings off of her fingers and her car in the driveway. The victim's husband was not home at the time.

Other detectives were investigating a number of other thefts and burglaries at homes in the same area where yard work had been done and Antonio Sanders had been identified as a suspect. The detective on the home invasion case told the judge the victim's car had also been found parked at an abandoned house behind Sanders' home and he was charged with burglary and robbery. 

District Attorney Daryl Bailey said during Sanders' preliminary hearing that he has a juvenile record with previous convictions of robbery and possession of marijuana. 

"It's the state's position that this offender escalated his crimes. This victim is scared to death to live in her own home because of his actions. He is a danger to society," Bailey told the judge. 

Sanders was denied his request for bond reduction. 

He also faces charges of theft of property, breaking and entering a vehicle and fraudulent use of a credit card in connection with another case on May 15, 2014 in which another one of his elderly customers had her purse stolen out of her car in her driveway. Police say the victim ran across the street to talk to a neighbor and Sanders was at her home doing yard work when he saw her purse in her unlocked car and took it, using her credit cards to buy gas at local gas stations and then throwing the purse into the Alabama River. 

A judge found probable cause in all of his cases and they will be presented to a Montgomery County grand jury. 

Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey says it's one of many cases being handled by the Elder Justice Task Force he created when he took office. An investigator and prosecutor from his office work with police to see these cases through to the very end.  

"These are cases that we're paying special attention to because of the rise in crimes against the elderly. They're cases that are tough to investigate and prosecute and we're just using the full resources of my office to assist law enforcement agencies in investigating these cases and then they assist us in the prosecution of the case," he said. 

The Montgomery Area Council on Aging says there are regular reports of neglect and physical, sexual and financial abuse involving local elderly residents. The largest growing sector of our population is 85 and older. 

"It's way more common that what is reported. It's way more common than people want to talk about. I probably could find 100 cases but they would have to willing to acknowledge that it is a problem and they would have to be willing to file a complaint with the police department," said Mary Margaret Kyser, Senior Services Director, Montgomery Area Council on Aging

"Sometimes people dismiss senior citizens just like they do children or the senior citizens don't tell about the abuse because it's usually someone in their family. Nobody wants to talk about it. It's that dirty little secret. It happens in lots and lots of families with lots of money and no money. It doesn't matter. It doesn't have a socioeconomic group,' she added. 

The Elder Justice Task Force can sink their teeth into these cases thanks to the new Protecting Alabama Elders Act which created additional criminal penalties for elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation. It applies to victim who are 60 years of age or older. 

"The more that we can put this new law to use, that will be a deterrent to the people who think they can just rip off some old person," Kyser told WSFA. 

Bailey says due to the growing number of crimes against the elderly, he wants to raise awareness so seniors can protect themselves and send a message to those targeting and taking advantage of elderly victims. 

"To the perpetrators of these crimes, we're going to find you and you're going to pay once we do find you and take you to court," he said. "You're dealing with folks who are advanced in age, whose memories are not always the best and what we are doing is taking the extra effort to gather additional evidence, talk to additional witnesses and put additional resources into the investigation of these cases so we can make them better cases and therefore win them when we get them to court."

There are a number of resources for elderly victims, including the Montgomery Police Department, the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office, the Montgomery Area Council on Aging and the One Place Family Justice Center. Also, there's the Alabama Elder Abuse Hotline: 1-800-458-7214. 

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