Criminals prey on elderly

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Criminals are preying on the elderly and two local sheriffs want it to stop.

Both Hertford County Sheriff Juan Vaughan and his counterpart in Northampton County Wardie Vincent, said senior citizens have been taken advantage of by burglars recently and that their offices were diligently seeking information to make an arrest.

“For people to take advantage of our elderly population is despicable,” Vaughan said. “We absolutely will not tolerate it in Hertford County.”

Vincent’s reaction was just as strong.

“It is absolutely a disgrace for people to go into the homes of our seniors and perpetrate these kinds of crimes,” Vincent said. “We are working diligently to make sure our senior citizens are safe.”

In Hertford County, there have been two recent incidents where two people posed as workers from the tax office and entered the home of an elderly person.

“They claimed to be measuring the home for tax purposes,” Vaughan said. “They had the resident help one of them with the measurements while the other one took items from the residence.”

The sheriff said he was appalled by the incidents and that Hertford County Deputy William Stroud was working diligently to find the persons responsible.

Hertford County Manager Loria D. Williams said there were times when appraisers worked in the county, but the times they would want to enter a home would be rare.

“We have a contract with Pearson Appraisal and they will once a year ride around the county and do evaluations,” Williams said. “Most of that work would be done outside. It is very rare they would want to come into someone’s home.”

She said any citizens who were concerned about the legitimacy of someone claiming to do evaluations for the tax office could contact the county office at 358-7805.

“We encourage our citizens to be careful,” Williams said. “Don’t take any chances. Feel free to contact someone to make sure the people at your door are legitimate.”

Vincent said the local incident in which his office was investigating actually happened in Brunswick County, Virginia, but the residence was only accessible through Northampton County.

In that case two people allegedly claimed to be from the Social Security Administration and entered the home of an elderly couple. After one perpetrator got the wife out of the room to supposedly do measurements of the home, the other allegedly robbed the elderly man.

“We’re working diligently with the authorities in Brunswick County to find the people who did this and make sure they are prosecuted,” Vincent said.

Both Vaughan and Vincent warned senior citizens not to let anyone into their home they did not know.

“The bottom line is, if you don’t know the person, do not allow them into your home,” Vincent said. “If someone comes to your door and you’re not sure if they are legitimate, call the sheriff’s office and let us come and check their credentials.”

Vaughan agreed.

“We will gladly come out to the residence and check to make sure people are properly credentialed,” Vaughan said. “We want our citizens to choose safety. I would much rather them call us if they have any doubt whatsoever.”

David Davis, the manager of the Ahoskie office of the Social Security Administration, said any social security employee that visits a home can be verified through the person’s local office.

“Social Security does not solicit door-to-door,” he said. “If someone is sent to your home, the local office will know who they are and when they will be there.”

Davis said legitimate social security employees have photo identification, but also said if there were any questions, the local office could verify the presence of anyone who was supposed to be at the home.

“If someone comes to your door claiming to be from social security and you’re not certain, contact your local office,” he said.

The Office on Aging in both counties is also available if senior citizens have questions about someone coming to their home.

“We will be glad for someone to call us if they are concerned,” Northampton County Aging Director Debby Warren said. “We will be glad to offer assistance.”

Hertford County Aging Director Linda Blackburn said she wanted all senior citizens to feel comfortable calling the office if they have concerns.

“The safety of our seniors is first and foremost,” Blackburn said. “Any senior that is apprehensive about the person at their door should feel free to call us for help.”

Any senior citizens or other resident that has concerns in Hertford County can call the sheriff’s office at 358-7800 or the Office on Aging at 358-7856. In Northampton County, those numbers are 534-2611 (Sheriff) and 534-1668 (Office on Aging).