Magazine article The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin

Law Enforcement Gerontology

Magazine article The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin

Law Enforcement Gerontology

Article excerpt

In today's troubled society, crime is a major concern of the elderly. Clearly, victimization of the elderly severely impacts their economic, physical, and mental health. In turn, it diminishes their quality of life.

Still, gerontologists give little attention to the crime problems of this socioeconomic group. Instead, they focus the bulk of their research on

explaining the aging process and discovering solutions to the physical and mental problems of the elderly.

Police administrators, on the other hand, recognize that crimes against the elderly require ardent attention by law enforcement. In response, some administrators have created an innovative, specialized position within their agencies--the law enforcement gerontologist. Law enforcement gerontology is the branch of law enforcement science concerned with aging, the crime-and abuse-related problems of aged persons, and the opportunity for older persons to contribute to the crime prevention mission.(1)

In the past, law enforcement addressed youth crimes by creating specialized juvenile units. Now, law enforcement administrators must make similar contributions to the overall good of America by specifically addressing the crime problems of our aging society. Law enforcement gerontologists can do this by melding existing gerontological research with the law enforcement mission. This article discusses the role and responsibilities of gerontologists within police departments. It also addresses the type of training those in this position should receive, how the fear continuum affects the elderly, and what types of crime the elderly often experience.


Law enforcement gerontologists work cooperatively with senior citizen communities. By developing a rapport with the elderly, officers assigned to this position can pinpoint specific problems that impact that segment of the population and then recommend ways to minimize the risk of victimization. Law enforcement gerontologists can also alert the senior citizen community to ongoing scams being committed against the elderly.

Finally, law enforcement gerontologists can involve the elderly in volunteer projects. Involving senior citizens in the fight against crime serves a two-fold purpose. It allows them to feel that they can impact on the crimes being committed against their peer group, and it allows the law enforcement community to benefit from the valuable services this group can offer.

In order to fulfill their responsibilities effectively, law enforcement gerontologists need to understand the process of aging, as well as the many types of crime and abuse elderly persons experience. They must also know how to communicate with senior citizens. Specific knowledge in these areas allows law enforcement gerontologists to guide department policy and to train law enforcement generalists on how to improve their delivery of law enforcement services to older persons.


In March 1993, the State of Illinois became the first State in the Nation to train officers to become specialists in law enforcement gerontology. Several other States, including Rhode Island, Florida, and Delaware, are currently developing this type of training.

In addition, the National Crime Prevention Institute in Louisville, Kentucky, offers a 40-hour training program for law enforcement gerontologists. Its course on crime and abuse against the elderly offers information on developing and implementing a law enforcement gerontologist program and communicating with the elderly. The course also addresses the demographics, myths, and facts of aging; assault and abuse by family, health care providers, and others; and guardianship, fiduciary, and health care fraud.

Further, the course educates attendees on traditional con games and street crimes that target the elderly, such as roof repairs and telemarketing schemes, legislative issues (defining crimes of abuse and neglect), and senior volunteer services. …

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