In Our View: Centralized Efforts

County's new elder abuse justice centerwill lead to quicker response and prosecution



All Clark County residents owe extended applause to Prosecutor Tony Golik and his staff for a recent action that benefits a unique demographic group: Anyone who is not already in the group is at least bound for membership. It’s the noble population of senior citizens.

Earlier this month Golik and others in his office unveiled an elder abuse justice center in the basement of the prosecutor’s office at 1013 Franklin St. in downtown Vancouver. The center includes a deputy prosecutor, two detectives and a part-time coordinator. As Laura McVicker reported in a Columbian story, about 40 deputy prosecutors work in Golik’s office.

Opening the elder abuse justice center, of course, will not solve one of our community’s most sinister problems, one that transcends all boundaries of geography and income level. But the center allows authorities to act more quickly and decisively when cases of elder abuse are detected. Officials at Adult Protective Services estimate more than 800 cases of elder abuse annually, and more than 113 cases are pending at the prosecutor’s office.

Centralizing the actions against those violators in a specialized center will streamline investigations and prosecutions because all players will operate together.

By opening the center, Golik kept a campaign promise that was made when he ran for the office last year. Running as a Democrat, Golik received 54.7 percent of the votes.

In recent years Clark County residents have seen how a special focus yields multiple benefits in the justice system. The Children’s Justice Center and the Domestic Violence Prosecution Center have shown how a more concentrated teamwork between investigators and prosecutors can produce more direct results.

In the case of elder abuse, we only wish those more efficient results could erase the scourge. How anyone could victimize a senior citizen, especially one’s own relative, remains beyond the comprehension of rational people. Still, the insidious problem is rooted in antiquity and solidified into perpetuity.

One of the most trusted and successful activists in this area has been state Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver, who in a Feb. 27 Columbian story described the overall threat to senior citizens: “Many citizens work hard and save their entire lives so they can live their golden years in safe and comfortable retirement. Naturally, most all retired folks take a lot of pride in making their own decisions, just like anyone else. At some point, though, they generally have no choice but to put their lives and financial resources into someone else’s hands. Yet some of the people closest to us, sometimes even our own children, take advantage of the situation.”

With the opening of the center, Golik has managed to overcome a few other challenges related to funding and staffing. No additional revenue was required except to pay for the part-time coordinator, whose salary for the next year and half will come from leftover money in a reserve fund generally used for transportation of witnesses and other trial costs. And staff members are county or city employees who already have been working on elder-abuse cases.

In addition to Golik, kudos are warranted for program coordinator Dianna Kretzschmar. Beyond this particular office, we have more than once editorially applauded the work of Jim Senescu, a Vancouver attorney who represents many elders and other victims of financial exploitation.

Public frustration will continue because history tells us this shameful side of civilization will never go away. But knowing that a stronger response can be made gives people hope that solutions are available.