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  1. 1. Crimes of Persuasion 1 Crimes of Persuasion and the Elderly: A Review of the Austin Police Department’s Response Julie O’Brien Austin Police Department Leadership Academy Dr. Michael Lauderdale Dr. Harold Prince June 5, 2002
  2. 2. 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
  3. 3. Crimes of Persuasion 3 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 them. 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 enhancement. 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
  4. 4. Crimes of Persuasion 4 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. Analysis: 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
  5. 5. Crimes of Persuasion 5 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 results. 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- motivating. 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 community. Response: In developing the response to the Areas of Interest, each theory was examined for leader
  6. 6. Crimes of Persuasion 6 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 same strategies.
  7. 7. Crimes of Persuasion 7 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 program. 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
  8. 8. Crimes of Persuasion 8 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
  9. 9. Crimes of Persuasion 9 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.
  10. 10. Crimes of Persuasion 10 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.
  11. 11. Crimes of Persuasion 11 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.
  12. 12. Crimes of Persuasion 12 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. Information 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
  13. 13. Crimes of Persuasion 13 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 community. 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. Legislation 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.
  14. 14. Crimes of Persuasion 14 Assess: 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 crime information. 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 Southwest area? 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
  15. 15. Crimes of Persuasion 15 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.
  16. 16. Crimes of Persuasion 16 References 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/ elderfraud.htm Gould Publications. (2001). Texas Criminal Law and Motor Vehicle Handbook. Longwood, FL.: Author 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: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/abstract/cpa6597.htm Mannix, M. (2001). Ripping Off Retirees. U.S. News and World Report 131 (3), 43. (Academic Search Premier: ISSN 00415537)