Over the last few years, it has definitely felt as though there has been a noticeable increase in the number of news stories that involve crimes being committed against vulnerable elderly people.
Given Australia’s 24-hour news cycle and the propensity of news outlets to publish the most outrage-inducing stories, it has been difficult to gauge whether these types of crimes are becoming more frequent or if we are simply just hearing more about these crimes than we did in previous years.
Unfortunately, there is very little research or data that indicates the frequency of these types of crimes on a national scale, and the information that is available is limited to individual states and provides very little insight on the type of crimes being committed against individual age groups.
Although not perfect, data from Victoria’s Crime Statistics Agency clearly indicate that crimes against the elderly have been increasing across the last decade. And trends in individual states are quite often a good indication of what is happening across the nation as a whole.
In 2011, there were 1,515 crimes committed against Victorian residents who were over the age of 60, and almost one-third of these crimes involved victims that were aged 70 and over.
However, the most recent statistics show there were well over 4,000 crimes committed against older Victorians in 2019, and 1,423 of these victims were aged 70 or older.
This significant increase in the frequency of crimes being committed against older people across the last decade is worrying for a number of reasons, the most troubling of which is that most experts believe the majority of crimes against older people go undetected.
This means that statistics showing that more than 11 people over the age of 60 become victims of crime on a daily basis may only be the tip of the iceberg, and these alarming statistics only represent one of eight Australian states.
Although the nature of the crimes being committed against older people was not represented in the data, a spokesperson for Victoria Police provided us with some anecdotal insight into the types of crimes they are seeing older Australians fall victim to.
“There has been an increase in certain crime types involving victims over 65 over the past 10 years. Most concerningly are the increases we have seen in crimes against the person – including homicide, assault and related offences, sexual offences, and stalking,” said the Victoria Police spokesperson.
“As people age, there may be several factors that contribute to an older person’s increased vulnerability – including isolation, access to economic resources, physical or cognitive capabilities, and reliance on others to care for them.”
“We have an ageing population, with 1 in 6 Australians over 65, we need to look out for our family members, friends, and neighbours.”
“Social isolation is a key factor contributing to both perceptions of safety and victimisation, we can all play a part in reducing this.”
According to police, there can be any number of reasons as to why an individual would victimised an older person, especially when those committing these types of crimes are family members.
In cases where both the victim and offender know each other, offending can be financially motivated and can arise due to a sense of entitlement over an inheritance or possessions.
In circumstances where the offender and victim are not known to each other, Victoria police believe that some offenders see older people as easy targets due to a perceived inability to fight back or due to living alone.
“There is no doubt that being a victim of crime can be a traumatic experience,” said a Victoria Police spokesperson.
“We don’t want people to be concerned or fearful, but it’s important to adopt basic crime prevention measures to ensure one’s safety and security.”
Victorian Police recommend the following measures to help protect older Australians from becoming victims of crime:
- Ensuring your home is secure at all times, locking doors and windows during the day and night.
- Having an awareness of scams or uninvited visitors. If something doesn’t seem right, then double-check with a third party.
- Having good relationships with your neighbours who may be able to identify if and when something isn’t right.
Victoria Police believe that everyone has a role to play when it comes to looking out for older people living in our communities – especially those who live alone. They also advise that all Australians take the opportunity to speak up and look out for older people for family members and friends.
“There has been significant research into issues affecting older Australians, such as elder abuse and reportable assaults, through the Royal Commission into Aged Care,” said the Victoria police spokesperson.
“Victoria Police will have a keen interest in the findings of the Royal Commission when it concludes. More broadly speaking, any research that looks more closely at the drivers of offending and violent crime would be welcomed.”
“Police are here to help. Our goal is to ensure that all people enjoy quality of life, even as we age, and this includes being free from fear of being a victim of crime.”
Photo Credit – iStock – nkbimages