Weekly Feature

2015-06-11 / Editorial

Bill needs action to protect residents from larceny

Bee Editorial

Legislators are urging the state Assembly to pass legislation that would expand the crime of larceny to fully prosecute people who exploit the trust of senior citizens and people with disabilities.

The bill would impose harsher penalties on individuals who steal cash, savings and other assets from seniors and people with disabilities.

The bill has passed the state Senate every year since 2011, but has yet to move into the Assembly for a vote. In order to get the legislation passed during this legislative session, the Assembly would need to take action on it soon. The legislative session will adjourn on Wednesday, June 17.

Currently, New York State has no legal provision that specifically addresses the financial exploitation of senior citizens. This means some criminals can avoid severe punishments or avoid being punished at all. This bill would amend the state’s larceny code to establish seniors and people with disabilities as a protected class within the code. Language would be added to the code to establish financial exploitation of seniors or those with disabilities as a crime.

It would also enhance state law against those who attempt to take advantage of an individual’s deteriorating mental or physical condition in order to steal from them.

About 45 states have laws that explicitly seek to prevent financial abuse of seniors and people with disabilities. Unfortunately, New York State is lagging behind.

In many cases of this type of financial abuse, the perpetrator tends to be a family member, close friend or caretaker who has close access to the victim and has gained his or her trust. It’s important that the state takes measures to prevent and protect its citizens from this type of crime. Penalties for larceny depend on the amount of money alleged to be stolen. For example, someone who steals more than $50,000 can be charged with second-degree larceny, a class C felony, which is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Many laws are created to keep the community safe and regulate the actions of individuals who would cause harm. Legislators are elected by the people to give them a voice in government. It’s important that those legislators advocate and look out for the people they represent.

It’s been four years since this proposed legislation first passed in the state Senate. It should be one of the Assembly’s priorities to get it passed before the legislative session ends.

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