CRIME BY THE ELDERLY: THE DILEMMA OF ARREST, PROSECUTION, AND SENTENCING
The elderly offender poses a different set of problems and issues for police, prosecutors, and trial judges from those associated with both youth offenders and younger adult offenders. This research examines the problems and issues posed by the elderly offender. An important definition for this research is the term "elderly." Most definitions of the term are either or both arbitrary and subjective. Further, while a specific definition of elderly may be appropriate for one analytical parameter, that same definition may be quite inappropriate for another analytical parameter. For purposes of this research, age 55 and over is considered to be elderly (Fattah & Sacco, 1990, pp. 19-20).
While as a group older persons tend to commit less crime on a per capita basis than do their younger counterparts, they tend to "commit their individual crimes for the same reasons that other adults do: . . . lack of commitment to conforming norms, lack of alternatives, need for excitement, or mental aberrations (Alston, 1986, p. 156). Psychiatric explanations for criminal behavior by elderly persons can create problem situations for the police (Fattah & Sacco, pp. 93-94).
As the population ages, more law enforcement agencies are focusing on senior citizens (Petrunik, 1991, pp. 207-208). Police have begun to change their approach to dealing with two different types of service calls--those calls involving an elderly perpetrator and those calls associated with an elderly victim. While senior citizens often are perceived as victims of crime, they can be the perpetrators of crimes as well (Gilfillan, 1994, pp. 14-15). Crimes committed by senior citizens, however, may be the result of abnormal aging rather than criminal intent. For example, an elderly may forget to pay for an item in a store, and be charged with shoplifting. An older person may become disoriented and comm...