To protect and to serve senior citizens

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 22, 2005

Identity theft is a problem everywhere-and the area’s eldest selection of the population is often the most susceptible.

&uot;Con artists prey on the good-heartedness of seniors,&uot; said officer Chris Butler, an instructor in the first Suffolk Senior Citizens Police Academy, which ended Thursday.

Butler said he’d looked at a Federal Trade Commission Web site that said that while &uot;only&uot; seven million people were victims of the fraud in 2003, roughly 10 million fell victim in 2004. Telemarketing and sweepstakes are two of the most common forms of fraud, he continued.

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&uot;We teach seniors to be strong,&uot; Butler said. &uot;We showed them that they didn’t have to be a victim.&uot;

That was just one of the lessons program participants learned in the three-week course. A representative from the Adult Protection Service came to speak on the needs of senior citizens, while a member of the Juvenile Court Services Unit discussed the differences between juvenile and adult law at police headquarters.

&uot;We learned a lot about preventing fraud,&uot; said Dimple Brinkley, one of six locals to take part in the program. &uot;Sometimes the main idea is to hang up and not say anything. If someone comes to your door and (offers to do construction), don’t pay for anything up front, because they might start and not finish.&uot;

Before moving to Suffolk five years ago, Charlie Jackson spent a decade as an Auxiliary officer in New York.

&uot;When I was out there at my age,&uot; said the 74-year-old, &uot;I wanted to inspire more people to get out there.

&uot;We learned about all aspects of the law, and the way the officers operate in the city. I’m going to try to recruit other seniors to come here. If more seniors understand the law, they might be able to handle their youngsters better.&uot;

Instruction in the course was a two-way street, said Sgt. John Sanker.

&uot;Your police department cannot be successful without the citizens taking pride in their community and working with us to improve the quality of life in Suffolk,&uot; Sanker said. &uot;You possess so much information and when we work together, we find out how efficient problem-solving can be.&uot;

Suffolk Police Chief William Freeman concurred.

&uot;We’ve learned a lot from you,&uot; he said before handing out diplomas. &uot;We’ve learned what we can do to make these programs better and more informative.&uot;

Doris Folk became the group’s honorary valedictorian, addressing the crowd.

&uot;We are so happy,&uot; she said.

&uot;I speak for all the participants when I say that this experience has been one of the most enjoyable and educational ones. When we have another program, I’ll be here.&uot;