The state Senate today approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Barbara Bailey that would stiffen penalties for crimes committed against vulnerable adults. Senate Bill 5099, which has strong bipartisan sponsorship, passed unanimously. The legislation received strong support from constituents who presented petitions to Bailey in Olympia.
“Crimes against vulnerable adults must stop,” said Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, in remarks to her colleagues on the Senate floor prior to the vote on her bill. “Sometimes it can be a family member, or neighbor, but the targeting of these vulnerable adults is unacceptable – the only thing worse are those that prey on children. We must institute these stronger penalties and lock these offenders up for a long time.”
The National Council on Aging estimates that one in 10 Americans aged 60 or more have experienced some form of elder abuse. Some estimates range as high as five million elders who are abused each year. One study estimated that only one in 14 cases of abuse are reported to authorities. The bipartisan proposal encourages counties to develop written protocols for handling criminal cases involving vulnerable adults.
Bailey’s legislation would:
- Increase penalties;
- Reduce barriers to prosecution; and
- Expand the scope of protection for vulnerable persons
“We heard in committee that many of these types of crimes go unreported or unprosecuted, and that is unacceptable,” said Bailey. “My legislation would provide clearer direction to our prosecutors and send a message that these heinous crimes will have serious consequences.”