The title of the lesson is "Bunco Frauds Against the Elderly." Eight common fraudulent, deceptive and theft-by-trickery crimes are spelled out in detail.
Students are given the logistics of the bank examiner scheme, the pigeon drop, home repair fraud, the building inspector scheme. They read up on successful sales frauds, medical quackery, "work-at-home" frauds and mail fraud. There also are hints on how con artists select victims.
No, it's not a primer for aspiring young swindlers. It's a chapter in a new training manual designed to assist law enforcement officers in understanding and learning how to deal more effectively with older people.
The manual was developed recently by the National Retired Teachers Association and the American Association of Retired Persons. Funds for the project came from the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration of the U.S. Department of Justice, under the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968. It was conceived and directed by Geofge Sunderland, who retired in 1966 as captain of the White House police and is now national coordinator of the NRTA-AARP Crime Prevention Program.
"We find that in nearly all localities, older people have very low rates of the three most serious crimes" - homicide, rape and aggravated assault, Sunderland said. The crime most often perpetrated on the elderly, he said, is fraud, "which is the one crime over which the victim has total control. You can't be swindled unless you cooperate."
Sunderland said older people are the principal targets of swindlers because "we're more likely to get a little pocket of money" squirreled away.
The training manual, which took two years to produce, evolved from a three-year crime prevention program conducted by the National Retired Teachers Association and the American Association of Retired Persons. They conducted nearly 200 seminars with law enforcement workers, which were designed to reduce the chances of criminal victimization of older people.
"Early on," Sunderland said, "we observed that the law enforcement officers were very good in the technical aspects" of fighting crime, "but they were not trained in the techniques of talking to older people. They were not being as effective as they could be."
"Law Enforcement and Older Persons: A Training Manual" is based on the assumption that "a knowledge of the facts of aging can enhance law enforcement officers' relationships with older persons," according to Sunderland.
One of the purpose of the manual is to train police to better help older people by avoiding "viewing older persons in the same steroetypical image as does much of the rest of society," Sunderland notes in the preface.
Throughout the formal training course, Sunderland said, "We go down this parade of myths" about older people - that they cannot learn well, hav declining intelligence, high rates of absenteeism and that senility is inevitable. "Through factual information" from gerontology authorities, Sunderland said, the manual strives to dispel the myths and to encourage law enforcement officers "to work more with older people in their community" for their mutual benefit.
The 16 lessons in the manual focus on situations where older people and law enforcement officers may have contact.
In addition to dealing with the older person as a fraud victim, the lessons deal with the elderly as victims of other crimes, as witnesses and as offenders. They also cover non-criminal situations such as accidents or injuries where older people need police assistance.
The lessons include suggestions on services older people can provide to law enforcement agencies as witnesses, community organizers or volunteer criminal justice aides. The lessons also cover the process of aging, older persons as a community resource and information on how to communicate with the elderly.