Crimes of Persuasion 1
Crimes of Persuasion and the Elderly:
A Review of the Austin Police Department’s Response
Austin Police Department Leadership Academy
Dr. Michael Lauderdale
Dr. Harold Prince
June 5, 2002
Crimes of Persuasion 2
Crimes of Persuasion and the Elderly:
A Review of the Austin Police Department’s Response
Surviving to one’s golden years is an aspiration shared by most people. The success of
having overcome the foolishness of youth and the turmoil of middle age traditionally promises
the relaxation of the twilight years. But the reality is that more and more senior citizens
discover that evil lurks in the bliss of retirement; in fact, in the eyes of some criminals, those
living in their golden years are viewed as the goose who laid the golden egg.
Statistically, senior citizens (age 65 and older) comprise approximately 15 percent of the
population but only account for 7 percent of all victims of crime (Klaus, 2000). The numbers
differ dramatically when looking at the number of senior citizens victimized by crimes of
persuasion, otherwise known as fraud crimes. About 30 percent of fraud victims are senior
citizens (“Con Games That Target the Elderly,” 1991). The picture is even bleaker with
telemarketing fraud because the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) estimates that
over 50 percent of the telemarketing fraud victims are senior citizens (“Fighting Fraud Against
Older Consumers,” 1999).
What do these statistics tell law enforcement? Quite simply that the crime of fraud is the
crime most likely to touch a senior citizen. As part of the ongoing community policing initiative
to tailor the efforts of the police department toward the needs of the community, a review
becomes necessary to determine what the Austin Police Department (APD) is doing, or could be
doing, to address the problem of fraud crimes committed against senior citizens. The following
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information will address this question through the Leader’s Problem Solving Model.
Areas of Interest:
Identifying the Areas of Interest centers around what APD can do to best protect seniors
who are potential targets of fraud. The first Area of Interest is actually an opportunity:
Statistically, seniors are more likely to become victims of fraud than the general
population. This fact creates the problem to be solved. Limitations to the identification and
prosecution of fraud criminals realistically leave APD the more productive role of preventing
victimization. This leads to the second Area of Interest: APD has no department-initiated
program designed to educate senior citizens about the type of crime most likely to affect
The third Area of Interest involves information collection and sharing: APD has no
procedure or database for collecting information on fraud crimes and alerting senior
citizens about current fraud schemes. However the information is distributed or publicized,
the mechanism would need to be accessible to the greatest number of seniors. The remaining
Area of Interest focuses on what might be done to deter fraud criminals from targeting seniors:
There is no statewide law to enhance penalties against persons convicted of fraud-related
theft involving victims 65 years of age or older. Currently, Texas has no such provision for
As part of the research for this project, myself and my project partner, Vancie
Floyd, designed and held a two-hour class for senior citizens entitled, “Senior Crime College.”
The class was held May 17, 2002 at the South Austin Senior Activity Center and covered several
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areas of fraud. There were 57 students in attendance. The actual experience of having used the
West Point Leadership theories to accomplish the “Senior Crime College” in the Southwest Area
Command will be reflected in the analysis of what theories could be used and the strategies
proposed in the response.
The following are the West Point Leadership Theories most important to the responses –
in particular the primary response of a “Senior Crime College:”
Expectancy Theory. Vancie and I used this theory to motivate the Southwest Area
Command District Representative (SWDR) Unit. In the future, we will use this theory to
encourage other area command DR Units to adopt the “Senior Crime College.” Each
participating individual or DR Unit will need to identify something of value, such as
praise or success, to him or her that can be gained from implementing the “Senior Crime
College.” The goal was to create a simple process to reach the desired end.
Motivation Through Consequences. Positive Reinforcement was viewed as the key to
gaining the cooperation of the SWDR Unit. The hope is to have other area command DR
Units adopt the “Senior Crime College” after Observational Learning convinces them
that they, too, can experience success with it.
Job Redesign. Selecting the right DR with High Growth Needs is the single most
important component to developing a successful, long-term project.
Managing Conflict. A look at the overall picture raised the concern with Vancie and me
that there might be potential for conflict with other agencies who perform similar-type
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presentations to the senior community. We wanted to resolve the conflict before it
interfered with the project.
Bases of Power. To accomplish the goal of completing the first “Senior Crime College”
in our command, Vancie and I found it necessary to motivate, instruct, and lead using
positional and personal power.
Situational Leadership. This theory was applied to the SWDR Unit and the “Senior
Crime College” students. Different leader behaviors were needed to obtain different
Transformational Leadership. To keep the “Senior Crime College” prospering after
the first class, Vancie and I selected a single SWDR officer to be the Primary DR for
future classes. This DR’s enthusiasm and loyalty to the program needed to become self-
Managing the Environment. The need for Resource Dependency becomes paramount
as the department budget rolls through its yearly cycle of abundance and famine.
Social Capital. The “Senior Crime College,” in particular, is a key action on the part of
APD that can be used to build social capital among seniors and between APD and the
In developing the response to the Areas of Interest, each theory was examined for leader
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strategies that could be applied. The primary response is the adoption of a “Senior Crime
College” by each area command DR Unit. Specifics of the college can be tailored to suit the
various demographic groups found in different areas of the city.
“Senior Crime College”
I propose that each area command DR Unit host a series of classes at different locations
designed to educate senior citizens about fraud crimes. Underpinning each class will be
information about how seniors can recognize fraud and protect themselves against it. The
number of classes given will depend upon interest. All the original materials necessary, except
giveaways and prizes, will be available through the SWDR Unit. The goal is make the program
attractive to other area commands by limiting the amount of work necessary to implement it.
The first step is to generate interest in the “Senior Crime College.” Expectancy Theory
can be applied to those persons or entities within APD who can help bring about an educational
program for seniors. How the theory applies can further be broken down into those persons or
entities who require influence over the short-term and long-term. To have brought about the
“Senior Crime College” program with the help of the unit that I supervise, the Southwest Area
Command District Representative (SWDR) Unit, I needed to practice the strategies used to
increase expectancy, instrumentality, and valence. This was particularly true with the officer
selected to continue the program after the first “Senior Crime College,” the Primary DR. Any
leader hoping to implement a “Senior Crime College” in his or her area command can use these
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To increase expectancy, three leader strategies were used to motivate the SWDR Unit.
Clarifying the path referred to the act of breaking down the “Senior Crime College” into parts so
that it would not seem overwhelming. Building confidence occurred with the Primary DR, who
worked closely with us. We met often with him to make sure he fully understood the process.
We also made sure he knew that he had been chosen especially because of his abilities.
Restructuring the work environment applied mainly to planning ahead using limited financial
resources so that the DRs had the time, equipment, and other items necessary to implement the
Increasing instrumentality used the strategy of clarifying the requirements. Vancie and I
told the DRs what needed to be accomplished. The only reward promised was a “thank you” and
the satisfaction of knowing the program had been successful. Valence was increased using three
leader strategies. Determining the reward valued was part of an ongoing observation in the
nearly one year I had supervised the unit. District Representatives highly value praise and
success. The assurance of providing valued awards was something I had already demonstrated
by openly and officially recognizing outstanding work. Explaining the benefits occurred when
making sure each DR knew why the “Senior Crime College” was important. Many of the DRs
felt protective toward the seniors after relating them to their own parents and grandparents.
Increasing expectancy in the long-term refers to the hope that other area command DR
Units will adopt the “Senior Crime College.” In this area, we were limited by the impossibility
of working as closely with other DR Units as we had with the DR Unit in our own command.
The first leader strategy we used to increase expectancy was clarifying the path. A selling point
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for the program is that the course has already been designed and implemented as a model. The
second strategy of conducting training is another way to increase expectancy by giving other area
commands the knowledge necessary to implement the program. Increasing instrumentality
occurs through clarifying the requirements. The formula for a successful “Senior Crime
College” is already there. A DR need only follow it. Finally, explaining the benefits of the
program and the success that we experienced with it increases valence.
Motivation will play an important role in developing and sustaining interest in the
program by those who implement it. To implement the “Senior Crime College” in our own
command, we used positive reinforcement consisting of praise and encouragement. This was
intended to motivate the Primary DR and the other DRs in the unit who were responsible for
coordinating the training. We hope that observational learning will make the other DR units
want to experience the same success as the SWDR Unit. If not the DRs, then supervisors
looking to emulate the same positive results and public relations in their own commands will
encourage the implementation of a “Senior Crime College.”
The single most important component of a successful “Senior Crime College” will be
selecting the most appropriate DR to assume control of it. In Southwest Area Command, we
chose a particular DR because he had previously demonstrated that he was a High Growth Needs
individual who would welcome an additional challenge. To encourage his potential, there were
several leader strategies that were used. We placed the Primary DR in a quasi-supervisory
position over future “Senior Crime Colleges,” resulting in vertical loading. He will need to use
creativity to keep the program interesting and successful. Establishing client relationships was
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an important part of building the attachment the Primary DR would have with the program. We
assigned the Primary DR as the liaison with the Senior Activity Center, and he worked closely
with the seniors. Opening feedback channels with the Primary DR resulted from making sure
that we checked in regularly with him and that we were always accessible to him.
After learning that other organizations had similar types of instruction that were
presented on a statewide basis, Vancie and I anticipated potential for conflict with the other
presenters, if they began to feel competitive or territorial. Fortunately, this only occurred with
one presenter. The sources of conflict were threefold: 1. Physical separation made
communication difficult; 2. Infrequent interaction also made communication difficult, but its
main problem was that it created confusion and lack of information about goals and objectives;
and 3. Competition over scarce resources was narrowed to competition over recognition. This
appeared to be the main conflict for the one presenter previously mentioned. He closely
identified with his role of senior fraud crime expert and did not want to share it.
We resolved the potential conflict using a superordinate goal. We met several times with
this presenter explaining our goals and objectives. We agreed that we were all working toward
the same noble end and clarified that helping the seniors avoid becoming victims was the
primary goal. In addition, with the amount of seniors in the Greater Austin Area, there was room
for more than one source of information about fraud crimes directed at seniors. Other area
commands wanting to implement a “Senior Crime College” will need to forge the same
superordinate goal with this individual because he is a necessary resource for pamphlets on fraud
crimes and seniors.
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A leader will need to use aspects of both positional and personal power to encourage a
DR Unit to undertake a large project like the “Senior Crime College.” In Southwest Command,
Vancie and I used legitimate and reward power to cultivate the field of interest, but it was expert
and referent power that enriched the soil. We established expert power through conducting
extensive research into fraud crimes and senior citizens. Referent power was used when we
formed a close relationship with the Primary DR and exhibited our faith in the program by
teaching the first class.
Situational Leadership refers to identifying the appropriate leader behavior needed for a
subordinate development level. When examining what developmental level we faced in the
Southwest Area Command while trying to implement the first “Senior Crime College” with the
SWDR Unit, we found that the DRs were reluctant contributors. Each had expertise but varying
levels of enthusiasm. Our corresponding leader behavior became supporting by allowing the
DRs significant decision-making abilities while relying primarily on our role as facilitators. The
SWDR Unit worked out much of the logistics for the “Senior Crime College.”
The key to the success of any “Senior Crime College” will be the Primary DR. He or she
will need to internalize the goals of the project and have the ability to see its success external to
the organization. When working with the Primary DR for Southwest Command, the “Senior
Crime College” was presented to him as a future opportunity. It was an opportunity for him to
attach his name and reputation to a successful program. The program would not only benefit the
seniors but also help establish himself as top-notch employee.
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The leader strategies used to create transformational leadership included using the
“Senior Crime College” to develop and create a vision. It was an unconventional strategy
because a “Senior Crime College” had never been done before. High expectations and
confidence were communicated to the Primary DR by convincing him that he was the future of
the program. Showing concern for individuals was demonstrated by making ourselves
approachable and accessible to the Primary DR. We showed self-sacrifice by performing the
experiment on ourselves by teaching the first class.
The APD budget was frozen before the first “Senior Crime College” was held and will
likely be unavailable until August or September of this year. This challenge will face all area
commands who choose to adopt a “Senior Crime College.” The leader strategies employed to
offset this threat are Maintaining alternate resources, Acquiring prestige, and Co-opting.
Alternate resources refers to finding other ways to fund the college, such as through donations.
Local businesses donated most of the prizes and food used in the Southwest “Senior Crime
College.” To ensure that the “Senior Crime College” remains a sought-after commodity, it will
be publicized both inside and outside the department, thereby making it difficult for management
to under-fund a popular program. With co-opting, competition between other DR Units and their
programs can be reduced if each area command has the same program.
The “Senior Crime College” builds two types of capital. The first is Human Capital
because we are educating and training the seniors to better defend themselves against fraud. The
second is Social Capital because the college helps seniors connect with each other and with the
other types of resources available to seniors in the community.
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In examining the leader strategies found in the course guide, I found that the “Senior
Crime College” moved beyond the mechanisms described by Robert Putnam. The strategy can
be titled “Community Policing” because it involves orchestrated acts by the police department
that either purposely or incidentally create greater social capital as a byproduct of the police
working with the community.
The second response to the Areas of Interests relates to APD not having a central location
where information about fraud crimes against seniors can be collected and disseminated to the
public. The Austin Police Department Public Information Office (PIO) maintains a web site for
access by the public. A link on this web site should lead to a “Senior Scambuster” location
where information on fraud committed against seniors can be kept. Currently, Texas requires
each law enforcement agency within one week to forward to the Texas Department of Public
Safety (DPS) any offense report of a crime involving fraud theft committed against an individual
age 65 or older (C. Rodriguez, personal communication, April 8, 2002). Within APD, each time
an investigative detail forwards such a report to DPS, it can also be forwarded to PIO. This
information can be used to keep the web site updated on the latest scams and their locations.
Most of the “Senior Crime Colleges” will be held in senior centers, churches, or
retirement centers. Most of these places already have some type of publication. The DR Unit
can ensure that after a “Senior Crime College” has been held at a location that its publication
receives regular updates about fraud crimes. For example, the Southwest “Senior Crime
College” was held at the South Austin Senior Center. Every two months, the Primary DR will
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submit a short article containing fraud information and updates to the senior center’s monthly
newsletter. This is another way to keep the information flowing outward to the senior
Having all or most of the area commands adopt a “Senior Crime College” will
significantly increase the number of senior citizens who are educated about fraud crimes. It also
allows for modifications to the instruction given to minority communities. For example,
African-American senior citizens are at risk for the “Slavery Reparation Scam” that promises
restitution from the federal government for African-Americans born before 1928 (Mannix,
2001). Other senior communities might not need this type of information.
Much like the current Sexual Assault and Robbery Penal Code statutes (Gould, 2001, p.
21-22 and p. 29), a proposal for legislation would include the enhancement of the criminal
penalty if convicted of a theft involving fraud with a victim age 65 or older. Specifically, the
provision would allow the penalty classification to be increased to the next level of punishment
upon conviction. Vancie and I have already approached State Representative Terry Keel, who
has agreed to sponsor the legislation. The first step is to draft the proposal and submit it to the
Chief of Police for approval. This would allow the legislation to be officially endorsed by APD.
This would be another way of creating social capital between APD and the senior community.
After the Chief of Police approves the proposal, it will be sent to Representative Keel.
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1. Student Evaluation. At the conclusion of each “Senior Crime College,” attendees would
complete a short questionnaire. The questions would be designed to assess how well the
program was received, if the seniors learned anything new about fraud crime, and
whether or not they felt more confident that they could recognize a potential fraud. At
the Southwest “Senior Crime College,” 90 percent of the attendees completed a student
evaluation. These evaluations give immediate feedback on the quality of the instruction.
2. After six months, Vancie and I will contact PIO to determine if the link for “Senior
Scambusters” is active, and if so, how many persons have accessed the site. This will be
an indicator as to the effectiveness of the web link as a means of disseminating fraud
3. After six months, Vancie and I will poll the other area commands to find out how many
have adopted the “Senior Crime College” and if they believe the program successful.
With this information, we can determine two things: 1. Whether a large number of
seniors are receiving the information as envisioned; and 2. Does the “Senior Crime
College” appear to be effective on a widespread basis or was the success limited to the
4. After six months, Vancie and I will review the “Fraud/Other” reports made to APD. As a
benchmark, the last year’s worth of reports was reviewed in March 2002. Particularly in
the areas of the city using a “Senior Crime College,” we will look for an increased
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occurrence of seniors reporting potential fraud rather than reporting that they have been
victimized by fraud.
5. After the rough draft of the new enhanced penalty legislation has been submitted to
Representative Keel, Vancie and I will check the status of the legislation every 90 days.
6. In December 2002, Vancie and I plan to survey the graduates of the Southwest “Senior
Crime Colleges” to see if the various means of updating fraud information has been
successful. This assessment will reveal if different means of distributing updates and
new information are necessary.
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Con Games That Target the Elderly. (1991). Consumer’s Research Magazine, 74 (9), 30-32.
(Academic Search Premier: ISSN 0095-2222)
Fighting Fraud Against Older Consumers. (1999). National Fraud Information Center.
Retrieved March 19, 2002 from the World Wide Web: http://www.fraud.org/elderfraud/
Gould Publications. (2001). Texas Criminal Law and Motor Vehicle Handbook. Longwood,
Klaus, P. (2000). Crimes Against Persons Age 65 or Older, 1992-1997. Bureau of
Justice Statistics, p. 1. Retrieved May 27, 2002 from the World Wide Web:
Mannix, M. (2001). Ripping Off Retirees. U.S. News and World Report 131 (3), 43. (Academic
Search Premier: ISSN 00415537)