Elder abuse unit working to protect seniors year round

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The end of 2018 marked 10 years since the creation of the elder abuse unit at the Honolulu Prosecutor’s Office. 

One man’s personal experience got it started. 

Scott Spallina, Honolulu Deputy Prosecuting Attorney, Elder Abuse Justice Unit: “She did not use violence to rip off seniors, what she did was she used a smile, she used aloha to get inside the home to get inside the lives of the seniors.”>

Honolulu Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Scott Spallina at Circuit Court, relentless, determined and dedicate in his fight for justice for seniors…

“You can’t turn a blind eye to that you can’t ignore these crimes going on because it may happen to your loved one some day and you want someone to be there looking after them,” said Scott Spallina, Honolulu Deputy Prosecuting Attorney, Elder Abuse Justice Unit. 

He made a change ten years ago, eyes wide open…

“There was a segment of our society that needed extra care, that needed extra protection and at the time I was in charge of the domestic violence unit and so I took it upon myself to create the elder abuse unit,” said Spallina. “My own parents are getting older my in-laws are getting older my father in law had a stroke. My mother in law, she’s been scammed so many times I could have a full time job just protecting my own mother in law, she  almost lost her house to a scam.”>

The number of cases prosecuted in the unit’s ten years have grown exponentially…….from violent crimes – like murder, sex assault,  to property crimes – like burglaries, car thefts – financial crimes, like counterfeit checks.. 

“We have seen an increase from when we started the unit to today we’ve seen an approximately 300 percent increase in crimes  and people always ask me why, I don’t know the answer,” says Spallina. “When I first started out, I was getting one phone call per month, and now i’m getting multiple calls a day.”

His unit has made hundreds of presentations to senior groups….”trains” at banks, at the police academy.  

Spallina says prevention is far easier than picking up the pieces after falling victim…

“In order to be safer you don’t have to put bars on your window, you don’t have to get a big scarey dog, what you have to do is use a little bit of common sense, like lock your doors at your home even when you’re home in the day time lock your doors.” 

Other tips? Don’t leave checks for bill payments in your mailbox. Ignore 99% of your emails. Don’t answer your phone whenever it rings, let it go to voicemail. If you do answer, don’t give out your personal information to strangers. Don’t hire people who approach you in parking lots. At big box stores, scammers like to offer to help you install whatever you bought. And don’t be penny-wise, pound foolish. Scammers prey on people being cheap. 

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