DA and Denver Police Announce Efforts to Combat At-Risk Adult Abuse

Gabe Fine / Westword
Lieutenant Adam Hernandez speaking at a press conference at the Denver Human Services Office.
On June 14, the day before World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, Denver District Attorney Beth McCann and Lieutenant Adam Hernandez of the Denver Police Department announced new initiatives to combat elder abuse and abuse of at-risk-adults, which includes those suffering from intellectual and mental disabilities.

McCann's office has created a new Elder Abuse Unit, which will specifically focus on prosecuting physical abuse and neglect crimes committed against citizens over seventy and other at-risk adults. "We will also have a robust community outreach program," McCann explained, adding that it provide at-risk adults with information on how to avoid being victims of crime.

Hernandez, who oversees the DPD's domestic violence, fraud and special-victims unit, said that his department will also create a Special Victims Unit with three highly qualified detectives who will be "dedicated to investigating abuse, neglect and the financial exploitation of the at-risk community."

The number of reported cases of adult abuse in Denver increased between 2013 and 2016 by 271 percent, according to the DPD.  "The number of cases our department was working on increased by 418 percent in that same time frame," said McCann. Last year, she added, her office investigated nearly 850 incidents of reported elder abuse, a number that she anticipates will be higher this year. Much of that increase will be a direct result of recent legislation passed in Colorado that requires health-care providers, caretakers and others to report signs of elder abuse.

It's currently projected that about one in ten older Americans experiences some form of abuse –– usually committed by someone the victim knows. "Today," Hernandez noted, "Denver's at-risk community has a stronger voice."