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Remember your elderly friends and relatives on World Elder Abuse Day says Sussex Police

Sussex Police are reminding older people and their families and carers, that it is important to stay on the alert for attempts to defraud them – whether through couriers, doorstep callers, computers and telephones, investment offers, on dating sites, by someone close to them or through bogus inheritance claims.

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World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on Saturday (June 15) shows that various types of abuse affect more than half-a-million older people across the UK each year; abuse can be physical, financial, sexual or psychological and all can be a result of neglect. It can occur anywhere – at home, in residential care, even in hospital.

In Sussex alone, in the year to the end of May 2019, there were 1,754 Operation Signature reports with a financial loss to those who were defrauded of over £11,000,000. Seventy-three per cent of victims were over 60 and 71 per cent lived alone. Fraud is a crime type which is particularly prevalent among the elderly population and Operation Signature is the Sussex Police process to identify, protect and support vulnerable victims of fraud within Sussex.

Elderly victims can also fall victim to romance fraud where they seek companionship via dating and other online contact websites. A recent case in Sussex saw an 80-year-old woman defrauded of around £20,000 when she ‘lent’ money to a man who she believed was genuinely befriending her. You can read more about romance fraud here.

There are serious long-term physical and psychological consequences of the maltreatment of older people, and this is both under-recognised and predicted to increase, in-line with the aging population.

The aims of the day are to both voice opposition to the abuse and suffering experienced by so many people worldwide, and to collaboratively find ways to manage risks of abuse, provide education on ways to prevent abuse and give support to those experiencing such harm.

Chief Superintendent Lisa Bell said:

“There are serious long-term physical and psychological consequences of the maltreatment of older people, and this is both underreported and predicted to increase, in-line with the ageing population.

“Sussex Police treats elder abuse as a serious matter, especially where more vulnerable members of the community are targeted. The aims of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day are to both voice opposition to the abuse and suffering experienced by many, manage risks of abuse, provide education on ways to prevent abuse and give support to those experiencing such harm.”

Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne said:

“I’m really proud of this system established by Sussex Police which has seen huge success protecting our older residents. They are now able to give targeted advice to ensure the public get help and support in identifying potential fraudsters.

“We know that criminal gangs deliberately target our older residents because they may have substantial savings and can be seen to be more trusting. Sadly, when a possible victim is identified their details are often shared with other criminals and so they are at risk of being re-targeted.

“This is why I fund two fraud case workers in Sussex who helped and supported 638 people last year alone. This means that those who fall victim to this heinous crime are offered invaluable emotional support as well as practical advice when it is most needed.”

Increasingly fraud is becoming more complex and deceptive – Operation Signature follows up reports of any of the fraud types where the victim is vulnerable by providing preventative measures to support and protect them from further targeting. This can include helping them to change their phone number to an ex-directory number, contacting family to suggest Power of Attorney, mail re-direction, offering them advice on call blocking devices and referring them to other support services.

The banking protocol is a reasonably new initiative in Sussex where bank staff are trained to identify customers who are making unusual withdrawals or money transfers. Victims are often after being pressured by rogue traders or phone calls from fraudsters impersonating officials. Staff will ask questions to establish if the customer is potentially the victim of fraud and will make a 999 call to police quoting ‘Banking Protocol’. This has been extremely successful in identifying vulnerable victims, preventing financial losses and locating offenders.

In the past 12 months, 384 calls have been received from the banks, with nearly 250 crimes recorded and safeguarding concerns raised. Losses to victims in excess of £2,113,530 have been prevented and 21 arrests have been made.

See further information and advice about to prevent fraud of this type on the Sussex Police website. For more information about World Elder Abuse Day click here. For other information about support for elders visit this link.

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Crawley Police stuck in traffic en route to emergencies due to lack of ‘blue light’ training

In the first of a series of pieces on local policing we take a look at the price the police have to pay when new officers join the force.

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The next time you see a police car meandering down the road or stuck at traffic lights it could actually be on its way to an emergency.

Picture the scene. You are an officer on duty with a colleague. You have been assigned your vehicle and have just finished a call.

Suddenly you get assigned a priority engagement. Someone is in trouble and needs urgent help from the police. They must attend as quickly as they can BUT neither one has ‘blue light’ training, meaning that they cannot turn on the emergency lights on the vehicle NOR can they use sirens.

In-fact, they have to abide by the traffic laws of all the other vehicles and cannot speed or go through red lights. They will reach their destination just as quickly as anyone else would.

Sound frightening? It is and it is happening right now in Crawley and across the country.

So why is it happening?

It is down to training and how long an officer has been with the force. It is not standard practice to give all officers Blue Light training before they begin life as an officer. That comes after they have started so in-fact many officers who may be on duty could potentially not have the required training to be allowed to turn on the lights and siren and rush to a scene.

The police know this and as such try their best to make sure the right level of officers are available to combat all types of incidents.

It is also about prioritising who gets the training first. As Sussex Police pointed out, specialist officers in teams such as roads policing and tactical firearms are requried to complete the standard response course and so get priority.

But it is also frustrating for officers who are desperate to help someone but are unable to get to a scene as quickly as they would like.

In order for an officer to be able to undertake a course they must first complete a two year probation period. After such time then they become eligible for attending the course.

Of course there is still the question of why they are not paired with an officer who already has the training but this comes down to resources.

A spokesperson for Sussex Police said:

“The dynamic nature of policing means we quite often need to respond to many different incident types with appropriately trained officers. As many of our incidents do not require a blue light response, this can sometimes mean that officers who have not completed the standard response course are paired up to make the best use of our available resources.

Officers need to complete their probation, this usually takes two years, to be considered for a standard response course, enabling them to respond to blue light emergencies. Our aim is to enable 85% of all response officers to be able to respond to emergency calls.

Specialist officers in teams such as roads policing, tactical firearms and serious and organised crime, who are required to complete the standard response course, sometimes need to be prioritised. With this in mind, we have recently recruited two new trainer drivers to respond to the increase in recruitment.”

There is no question that Crawley’s police do an incredible job. Having spent a Saturday night shift with them, this reporter saw that it is clear they need far more resources, far more money and far more equipment to be able to continue to do their superb work.

In-fact on the shift I shadowed a desperate call came in from an officer in trouble about 10 miles away and who needed urgent help from her colleagues. The desperation on the faces and the reaction of the officers I was with knowing they could not get to her fast enough was shocking and heartbreaking and something I am still finding hard to forget.

There is also no question that all officers from the newly trained to the senior officers all want to help each and every case so with news that thousands of new officers are on their way it can only help – can’t it?

So next time you see a patrol car without lights driving around, just take a moment to think, they could be trying to get to an emergency and are just as frustrated as you and I would be knowing they cannot go any faster than the car infront of them.

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