Office for the Aging

 
 

Senior Safety New York City Innovates, Protects Older New Yorkers

As a former precinct commander, New York Police Department (NYPD) Inspector Thomas Conforti had many encounters with crime victims. Some of the most memorable, he said, were the older victims of scams, who often would express great embarrassment at being fooled by scammers. Those interactions resonated with Conforti.

"Some would say 'How could I be so stupid?' I realized that these crimes were often preventable, but seniors probably needed some help in recognizing when a crime was occurring."

That realization has resulted in an innovative program led by Conforti and launched by the NYPD's Crime Prevention Division called "Senior Safety NYC." Designed to be proactive and wide-reaching, Senior Safety NYC approaches scams and check-stealing schemes practically.

Uniformed officers visit communities to present common scams and tricks used by thieves. They also hand out items older adults regularly use.

The "senior schwag," as it is affectionately called by the NYPD outreach team, includes a reusable carry bag and the Crime Prevention Book for Seniors, which outlines scams and provides actual scripts phone scammers often use to lure older New Yorkers into sending money. Also included is a permanent ink pen that allows older adults to write and mail checks safely without fear of "bleaching," and a first-in-the-nation reflective wristband with an attached alarm that serves as a beacon for older adults who may be under attack by a thief. The bag also contains a magnifying glass to assist with reading. More than 100,000 bags have been distributed to date.

Conforti noted that the wristband was developed after extensive research. The most popular item in the bag, it was designed by combining two products. The alarm can scare off an attacker, and also serves as a way for older adults to alert someone if they are having a medical issue.

So far, feedback on the program, particularly the wristband, shows that older people feel empowered when given the information contained in the Senior Safety NYC presentation. "The program provides a level of knowledge, and the wristband can add to the comfort level of someone who is going shopping or walking the streets alone," Conforti said.

Inspector Conforti's nine-person team, housed within the NYPD's Crime Prevention Unit, serves as the staff for all NYC precincts. By the end of 2017, the focus is to visit every senior center in the five boroughs, with no one left out.

"We want to be sure we don't miss anybody," said Conforti. "When all is said and done and the program is fully implemented, there will be a contact in every single precinct in the city. That adds up to more than 100 officers (who will be ambassadors of the program), and it's become a very efficient process."

The team has already seen success, even after just a few months of operation.

"When you go to an area in Manhattan and you see a senior walking down the street and they are carrying the bag your team helped design and distribute, I know our work is effective. It's great to be a part of it," Conforti said.

For more information about Senior Safety New York City, call Sgt. Morales with the NYPD Crime Prevention Division at 212-614-6741.

Crime Prevention Book for Seniors