Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Now 'Senior Sleuths' Are Joining in Crime Fight; They're Helping Their Fellow Senior Citizens Who Have Been Victims in Ponte Vedra

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Now 'Senior Sleuths' Are Joining in Crime Fight; They're Helping Their Fellow Senior Citizens Who Have Been Victims in Ponte Vedra

Article excerpt

Byline: CHRISTINA ABEL

PONTE VEDRA BEACH - Senior citizens have a new advocate in fighting crime - their peers.

The Seniors vs. Crime Project, which helps senior citizens fight fraud, theft and other crimes, was started at the Players Community Senior Center in Ponte Vedra Beach this month through the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office.

Senior citizens who volunteer at the center help their peers determine if they have been wronged and, if so, what action to take. They are known as "senior sleuths."

Sandy Dybel is a senior sleuth. She said they've had only one case so far, but they just started Thursday.

"It's a nice outlet for folks who don't really know if something's wrong," Dybel said.

Dybel said it's often difficult for seniors to come forward with their problems because they're afraid of seeming helpless or victimized. She said it's even more difficult for them to talk to relatives about their concerns because they might feel foolish or feel as if they're burdening their adult children.

"It gives them a way to speak to someone in confidence without feeling embarrassed, intimidated or foolish," Dybel said.

Dybel said the program was much needed in Ponte Vedra Beach, especially with the number of seniors living in the area.

"This service is needed everywhere, there's not an outlet that elders and seniors can go to and not face that stigma," Dybel said.

Dybel said no senior wants to hear their adult child say, "Oh mom, how could you be so silly as to believe that?"

Sheriff's Office Deputy Joe Bowen said the program has been in the county for 20 years, but the Ponte Vedra Beach location is new.

He said many criminals target seniors and there are typically more civil crimes than criminal, often involving landlord and roofing issues.

He said sometimes, after storms, contractors target older homeowners, saying they've noticed a problem with their roof as a result of wind or rain and they're willing to do the work for a bargain price. They then do the work and charge much more, or do part of the work, get paid and promise to return but never do so. …

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