Galef Votes for Bills Cracking Down on Criminals Targeting Elderly and Vulnerable

March 18, 2008
Assemblywoman Sandy Galef announced that the New York State Assembly has passed a group of bills to protect New York’s seniors against assault, abuse, and predatory financial practices.

“Elder abuse is unconscionable. This comprehensive package of eight bills creates initiatives to punish abusers to better safeguard the vulnerable from criminals and con artists.” Galef stated.

An estimated 30,000 seniors are victims of some kind of abuse or exploitation in New York State, according to the National Center for the Elderly Abuse. According to The Center, this may be a low estimate because only one in six elderly abuse cases are reported. Crimes can range from physical abuse, including sexual assault, to financial exploitation and emotional abuse.

The eight bills included four bills protecting seniors and four bills helping vulnerable New Yorkers.

The Assembly’s package of bills guards senior citizens in four different ways. The first bill increases the penalty from a class A misdemeanor to a class E felony if more than one vulnerable elderly person is victimized by a scam artist (A.9813). The second increases the penalty from a class A misdemeanor to a second-degree assault- a class D violent felony- if a person 65 years or older is assaulted by someone more than 10 years younger, helping to curb predatory attacks by those who target seniors (A.9818). Third, the Assembly voted yes to adding an experienced elder law attorney to the state’s Crime Victims Board, providing valuable perspective for cases involving older New Yorkers (A.6204). Lastly, the Assembly voted to require the New York State Police to develop educational materials and procedures relating to elder abuse to help with their cases (A.9905)

The package also included Assembly four bills that would protect vulnerable New Yorkers. One bill would give the injured party the right to sue for intentional damages to his/her property or for physical injury or death inflicted because of age, disability, race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, or sexual orientation (A.866). Another bill protects rent security deposits of the elderly and other New Yorkers by requiring landlords to promptly repay and account for a tenant’s security deposit at the end of a tenancy; require landlords to itemize deductions against security deposits in writing for damages to an apartment; and set penalties if landlords ignore the law, thereby helping to halt the widespread and unwarranted practice of unduly withholding tenant security deposits (A.2114).

The third bill rewrites New York’s power of attorney statute to ensure that agents for the elderly, the incapacitated and anyone who has given a power of attorney, are always answerable to that person, that this powerful tool in planning for incapacity is not used to cheat and defraud, and that prosecutors can effectively seek to punish those who criminally take advantage of others (A.6421-A). Lastly, a bill to prevent debt collectors from seizing Social Security, Social Security Disability, Supplemental Security and veterans’ benefits in bank accounts up to $2,500; give notice to debtors that such funds are exempt; and bar banks from charging their processing fees against those protected assets (A.8527).

“We need to keep our seniors safe, and punish those who assault the elderly and the less able in society to help curb this shameful, criminal behavior. I am a sponsor of many of these bills, and a strong supporter of all of them,” Galef concluded.