For Executive Leadership Program student Ed Hiar the exploitation of senior citizens unfortunately hits close to home. When his in-laws recently downsized their home, they were misled about the amount they could afford and were eventually taken for $10,000 in earnest money. The experience awakened Hiar to the all too common deception and unethical behavior targeted towards the elderly.
But Hiar along with his classmates Karla Jones, Michelle Weaver and Tina Hagedorn have begun to fight back. A major part of the Albers School of Business and Economics’ ELP program is a practicum titled “Leadership for a Just and Humane World” that requires students to work in teams for six months to address a social injustice in the community. The group agreed from the start that their focus would be senior citizens. After much research they learned that financial exploitation was one of the most prevalent crimes against seniors and thus, their project was born.
|Clockwise from top, ELP students Ed Hiar, Tina Hagedorn, Karla Jones and Michelle Weaver collaborated to create a hotline to report crimes against seniors.|
The group enlisted the help of Detective Ed Troyer of the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department and Crime Stoppers to roll out their project. Over the past several months they have created the Crimes Against Seniors tip line and website which allows anyone to confidentially report abuse or criminal activity against seniors. The caller will speak with a trained receiver and cash rewards upwards of $1,000 are paid for tips that lead to the arrest of those who abuse or steal from seniors.
The project has received an avalanche of press including coverage on Washington’s Most Wanted TV show, Q13 Fox News and The Tacoma News Tribune. In addition, Clear Channel has agreed to sponsor more than 50 billboards in Pierce County to publicize the hotline and website throughout the year.
“Our project's success is dependent on public awareness, so we put a significant effort into getting our information out there but it's still a little surprising to see it on the ten o’clock news,” Weaver says.
The Executive Leadership Program ends in March, but the group is intent on making sure their program continues. Crime Stoppers of Pierce County has appointed one of their board members to head up the initiative, and the team created an “implementation kit” to help start the program in other counties. All collateral materials and presentations are available for download from the Crime Stoppers website so the program can be customized to each region accordingly. The group has met with Crime Stoppers of Puget Sound to begin implementation of King, Kitsap, Island and Snohomish counties.
Both the ELP experience and their project reinforced the team’s desire to serve. During some recent volunteer work with AARP Fraud Fighters call center, Hiar was able to speak to a number of seniors that were taking better precautions to protect themselves and were appreciative of the project’s message.
Hiar sums it up when he says “Helping those who really are in need is a key component to success in business and a happy life. “
To report a crime against a senior, call Crime Stoppers at (253) 591-5959 or visit www.tpcrimestoppers.com.
(Hannah Hepfer is programs coordinator for the Center for Leadership Formation.)