Seniors vs Crime

The Fernandina Beach Police Department is looking for active volunteers who are ready and willing to “right some wrongs” as Senior Sleuths.

The City of Fernandina Beach will soon have an office staffed with honest, dedicated, and hard working senior volunteers intent on righting civil wrongs for Nassau residents and on helping law enforcement deal with those individuals intent on cheating seniors.

Chief Jim Hurley is heading up the program in partnership with the Seniors vs. Crime (SVC) Project – a special project of the Florida Attorney General. Chief Hurley has announced that the Fernandina Office will work out of the police department to right civil wrongs done to seniors by unscrupulous contractors, repairmen, car dealerships, and similar businesses or individuals, many of which are not located in Nassau County.

Law enforcement is regularly called upon to review situations in which seniors are being taken advantage of because of issues related to advanced age. While these scams are not always a violation of criminal law, a civil remedy is often a viable solution. Police officers are usually powerless to help in civil situations involving products or service contracts. Law enforcement assistance in civil matters is restricted and very limited. Historically, police officers are left to refer seniors to small claims court or to a lawyer. Because the process can appear confusing and cumbersome, and a positive outcome unlikely, many seniors will not follow through and will remain victimized by a wrongful outcome.

With the opening of a SVC Fernandina Office, local seniors will have a place to go for help with their civil problems and it will cost the senior nothing. When an officer responds to a call for service and is asked to review a civil matter, the officer will be able to give the senior a referral card to the SVC Fernandina Office. All Office services are free to clients and this service will not be limited to City residents.

According to David Blacklock, Seniors vs. Crime Project Regional Director, senior volunteers are needed to staff the SVC Fernandina Beach Office which will be located at 1525 Lime Street within the police department building. He advised that the SVC Office will help residents of Nassau County who have been ripped off or cheated become whole, by having their money returned, an apology extended, have repair work completed, have the work done properly, or receive some other reasonable remedy.

The SVC Office procedure will be to ask the victim what he/she wants done as redress. Blacklock said, “If a victim tells us they want the person who cheated them flogged on the court house steps at high noon that is exactly what we enter on the form, although we will steer victims toward reasonable options.” Twenty volunteers are needed to staff the Fernandina Beach SVC Office two days a week for four hours a day. A certain kind of volunteer is preferable - someone with intestinal fortitude who will stand up to cheaters and get them to do the right thing. Blacklock emphasized, “Our volunteers do not lick envelopes; they right wrongs.”

The Seniors vs. Crime Project was started by Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth in 1989. Since the Project’s Office Program began in July 2001, more than $8 million have been recovered in economic crimes, frauds, cons, scams, deceptions, and just plain honest mistakes affecting mostly Florida seniors. All the work is done by local senior volunteers, called Senior Sleuths, in local offices.

Once our group of volunteers has been assembled, SVC Project staff will train these Senior Sleuths in operational procedures. Training takes only about four hours. An Office Manager (OM) will be selected and approved by the police department and the SVC staff. The OM will lead the Senior Sleuths and will be responsible for making decisions on case assignment, days and hours the office will be open, volunteer schedules, reporting case results and marketing the Office to the community.

The local contact for the Fernandina Beach Office is Captain David Bishop at (904) 277-7342 Ext. 233. Persons wishing to volunteer for or have their civil issues reviewed by the Fernandina Beach Office should call or write Captain Bishop.

This program is scheduled to begin operations immediately, and plans are already in the works to hold a grand opening in the coming months, with special invitations extended to the Florida Attorney General and others.

For more information about the Attorney General’s Seniors Vs. Crime Project, go to the Seniors VS. Crime Website