Cape Coral police routinely respond to reports of a senior citizen who has been victimized in an incident that borders more on civil than criminal.
They may be a victim of an unethical business practice; were overcharged for a service, like repairing a roof or car; or were simply sucked into a scam. Unfortunately, there was little that the officers could do - until recently.
The Cape Coral Police Department has partnered with the Florida Attorney General's Office to open a Senior vs. Crime office at the CCPD headquarters. A grand opening is today at 11:30 a.m., and the public is invited to attend.
"We have a pretty substantial senior citizen population," Officer Jerry Moll, who identified the state program and lobbied for the Cape office, said.
"That generation is a generation of trust. Unfortunately, they can be easily victimized," he said.
The Senior vs. Crime Project started in 1989 as a crime prevention program. Sponsored by the Attorney General's Office, the goal is to reduce the victimization of seniors, who often are targets because of their age.
The Cape office, located on the second floor, is manned by volunteers who are trained by the state agency. Seniors can bring in documentation related to the reported scam or unfair business deal and have their case reviewed.
Moll cited having a newly "sealed" driveway wash away in the rain because simple black paint was used or having a home's air conditioner unit damaged in the process of having the ducts cleaned as examples of possible cases.
He called them incidents "that don't reach the level of criminal."
In trying to resolve a case, the office will contact the involved business.
"And try to mediate it," Moll said.
Since the office went operational approximately three weeks ago, it has opened 18 cases. As of Tuesday, three cases had been successfully resolved and about $4,500 had been returned to those who filed the compliants.
According to Moll, the successful cases involved a rent deposit, an air conditioner and a product malfunction related to garage flooring.
The remaining cases remain active or were referred for criminal review.
Moll, who is in charge of hosting the CCPD's annual safety workshop for seniors, came across the Senior vs. Crime Project several months ago. He was surprised to discover 40 offices statewide, the closest in Sarasota.
"I kind of stumbled on this program," Moll said.
After getting the approval from his supervisors, he started lobbying Tallahassee to open a local office. Program coordinators conducted a site review of police headquarters about six months ago, then it was a go.
The CCPD is only providing the office space and equipment.
"It's a very low cost for the community," Moll said.
The Cape office will serve the Lee, Collier and Charlotte counties.
"This was available," he said of the office. "Whether it can handle the workload remains to be seen."
The product malfunction case actually came out of Naples.
"What a great feeling," Moll said, referring to when the office resolves a case. "You know that you achieved something, you helped someone out."
The CCPD headquarters is at 1100 Cultural Park Blvd.
The office is open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday.
For more information or to file a compliant with the Senior vs. Crime Project's Cape office, call (239) 574-0643, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Attorney General's Office online: www.seniorsvscrime.com.