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Experts offer tips to protect senior citizens from crime

Everyone is susceptible to crime, but a safety event slated for May 24 serves to remind the public that criminals often consider senior citizens easier targets.

This year’s annual senior safety fair will take place at Sam’s Town. It includes a resource fair and educational panels about everything from fire safety to fall prevention to health care fraud to personal safety.

“The elderly are more susceptible to injuries in personal crimes,” Metropolitan Police Department spokeswoman Laura Meltzer said Thursday, adding that senior citizens “have to pay special attention to make sure they’re doing the best they can to stay safe when they are out and about.”

Just this week, Metro released surveillance footage from a violent robbery April 3 in a drugstore parking lot near the Arts District that left an “elderly man” hospitalized with several broken bones. The robber was on a BMX bike when the incident occurred, and a suspect hasn’t been located.

In March, police also arrested a suspect after an “elderly woman” was severely injured during a purse snatch at Sam’s Town, where the fair is taking place.

Another notable crime against a senior citizen occurred in 2010, when a robber reached out a car window in a west valley parking lot and snatched a purse from a 95-year-old woman. The car was moving during the robbery, and the woman was knocked to the ground and dragged. She died as a result of her injuries, and the suspect was charged with homicide.

“Paying attention to your surroundings is one of the biggest things — going to and from places, walking into stores,” Meltzer said. “I always try to make sure my cellphone is in my purse, and I’m watching what’s around me, and watching to see if anyone is watching me.”

But it’s not just physical crime that senior citizens should be aware of, said Angie Christensen, a detective with Metro’s special victims unit. She will be at the safety event and is a member of the organization that planned it: the Seniors and Law Enforcement Together Council.

“Exploitation is a huge topic right now,” Christensen said. That’s when an elderly or vulnerable person puts trust and confidence in a caretaker, family member, friend or even business owner, but gets taken advantage of either through a scam or fraud.

Christensen mentioned the March arrest of April Parks, one of the most active private professional guardians in Southern Nevada. Parks often acted as the surrogate decision-maker for elderly and mentally incapacitated people, called wards. As the guardian, Parks had full control of the wards’ finances, estates and even medical decisions.

Parks was charged with more than 200 felonies that included racketeering, theft, exploitation and perjury. Police said she exploited at least 150 of those vulnerable Nevadans and “systemically bilked them out of their life savings.”

The May 24 event is free and geared toward seniors but is open to all members of the public, including relatives and caretakers. The resource fair is 1-3 p.m., and the safety sessions and panels run 3-4:30 p.m.

It’s all happening inside the east valley hotel-casino’s Ponderosa Ballroom, located at 5111 Boulder Highway.

“It’s a whole gamut of safety resources for seniors,” said Kim Harney-Moore, a secretary with the council.

The event will include a site to dispose of unused prescription medicine.

Vegas Vice appears every other Saturday. Contact Rachel Crosby at rcrosby@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5290. Follow @rachelacrosby on Twitter.

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