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KEEPING WESTCHESTER SAFE

Image of top half of brochure about child abuse is a crimeProtecting the children of our community

Child abuse comes in many forms: physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse and neglect. If you suspect a childs is the victim of abuse or maltreatment, read how you can help.

 

image of Report Hate Crime textDon't let fear stop you from reporting a crime

All crime is illegal. But hate crimes are deeply troubling since they also propogate hatred and bigotry that targets a specific group within a community. Read more about hate crimes.

 

An alarming number of teenagers and young adults in this country have become victims of physical, emotional or sexual abuse at the hands of their dating partner. An estimated one in ten high school students have been hit, slapped, or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend. This violent behavior often begins between the ages of 12 and 18.

Warning signs of abuse can vary, but often include:

  • Hitting, slapping, grabbing, or shoving
  • Verbal insults, put downs, name calling, bullying, guilt trips, and the silent treatment
  • Jealousy, constantly accusations of wrongdoing, and possessive behavior
  • Monitoring your phone calls, texts and social media accounts
  • Controlling behavior such as telling you what to do, what to wear, who to talk to, how to spend your money, or who to associate with
  • Isolating you from friends and family
  • Making excuses for abusive behavior or making you feel that you deserve it
  • Showing up unexpectedly or uninvited
  • Pressuring you to engage in sexual activity, and threatening to spread rumors about you if you refuse
  • Physically forcing you to engage in sexual activity

If you feel you are in an abusive relationship, talk to someone you trust, such as a parent, friend, teacher, counselor or school officer.

If you think someone you know is in an abusive relationship, tell an adult.

If you suspect a friend or classmate is in danger, call 911

Destructive relationships during the teen years can lead to lifelong, unhealthy relationship practices and contribute to behaviors that may result in chronic mental and physical conditions in adulthood.

Furthermore, teens that are physically hurt by a dating partner are more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior, binge drinking, and drug use.

If you or someone you know is the victim of teen dating violence, call our Domestic Violence Bureau at (914) 995-3000.

Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information, such as your name, Social Security number, and date of birth or credit card number, without your consent, to commit fraud or other crimes. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 17.6 million US residents experienced identity theft in 2014 and the number is on the rise.  With sophisticated criminals constantly developing new techniques to tap into your personal information, it is more important than ever to educate yourself on these types of scams and the steps you can take to prevent yourself from becoming a victim.

What are some of the ways that identity thieves steal personal information?

Mailbox “Fishing”
Identity thieves use rodent glue traps and other mechanisms to “fish” mail from the blue United States Postal collection mailboxes.  Once your mail is stolen, any enclosed personal checks might be “washed,” or wiped clean of all handwriting using an acetone solution and rewritten to change the payee and payment amount. The check will later be cashed or deposited and the money withdrawn. Often times, the check writer won’t know for a month or more that the check has gone missing. Check your bank statements frequently and report any discrepancies in written checks to your financial institution and local police department immediately. Try to place mail into receptacles located inside the post office whenever possible to minimize the risk of this type of fraud.

New and existing account fraud
Major news networks have reported large scale data breaches involving financial institutions, major retailers and certain health care providers. Computer hackers and identity thieves work together to steal credit and debit card numbers and other personal identifying information such as social security numbers and dates of birth.  The card numbers are then used to create counterfeit, or “cloned” credit cards or to make internet purchases.  This is how you may still be in possession of your card and yet be the victim of fraudulent card activity in another state or online.  Review your credit card and bank statements frequently for unauthorized withdrawals and charges and check your credit report every four months for fraudulent account openings. 

“Skimming”

  • Skimming occurs when an identity thief steals credit card and debit card information using a special information storage device as your card is being processed.
  • Keep an eye on your card. If you see your card being swiped through two different machines, contact the store manager and ask for an explanation.

Identity thieves will seek out jobs for the sole purpose of gaining access to credit card numbers and other personal information.

“Spoofing”

  • Spoofing occurs when an identity thief purposely chooses a domain name or email address similar to a legitimate website or email address in order to steal private information.
  • Make sure you double check the site address and email address to avoid being the victim of this scam. Even a discrepancy of one symbol can lead to tens of thousands of dollars in theft.

“Phishing”

  • Phishing happens when an identity thief sends an email posing as your bank or financial institution requiring you to reply with personal information for “security reasons.” This is a classic identity theft scam.
  • If this should happen, do not respond. Alert your internet service provider and financial institution immediately.

Vigilance is key

  • Keep an eye on your financial affairs to prevent large scale theft of your identity.  Consumers are entitled to one free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus annually. Visit www.annualcreditreport.com to order your free report. Look for unauthorized loans, credit card accounts opened in your name, credit inquiries that are not promotional in nature, etc.  
  • Shred or destroy paperwork you no longer need.
  • Immediately report lost or stolen cards.
  • Sign all credit cards upon receipt.
  • Review your credit card statements carefully and follow-up with creditors if bills do not arrive on time.
  • Never leave your wallet or purse containing credit and debit cards in your car overnight.  Be sure to lock your vehicle doors, even if your vehicle is parked in your driveway.
  • Join “Fraud Alert” programs offered by your financial institutions.
  • Place passwords on your credit cards, bank and phone accounts that are not obvious to others.
  • Secure personal information in your home.
  • Ensure that security procedures in the workplace protect your personal information.
  • Limit the number of credit cards you carry.
  • Never carry your Social Security card with you.
  • Never give out personal information over the phone.
  • Pay your bills online.
  • Mail checks from inside the post office.

You’ve been victimized, now what?

  • Contact the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office Identity Theft Help Line at (914) 995-0002
  • Report the crime to the Federal Trade Commission.
  • Report fraudulent activity to your financial institution.
  • Cancel your accounts and get new ones if fraudulent activity has taken place
  • Notify your postal inspector if mail theft is involved.

Contact all three credit bureaus and place a fraud alert on your credit report so that any activity will be reported to you immediately.

The Westchester County District Attorney’s Office defines elder abuse as any crime involving a victim who is 60 years of age or older. In the majority of these crimes, the victim is specifically targeted because of their age. Examples of typical crimes committed against elderly victims include:

  • Domestic violence or neglect at the hands of a family member or caregiver
  • Financial exploitation and thefts committed by a family member, caregiver, home health aide or a stranger engaged in a fraudulent scam
  • Abuse of a power of attorney by someone entrusted to act as a fiduciary

The Elder Abuse Unit of the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office specializes in the investigation and prosecution of crimes against older victims in the county. An Assistant District Attorney with specialized training in the detection, investigation and prosecution of elder abuse handles all of these cases from the initial report of abuse until the completion of any prosecution of the matter. The ADA is assisted by a criminal investigator of the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office to assist with the investigation, in order to determine whether a criminal investigation and prosecution is warranted. The Investigator assists the prosecutor to gather evidence with the goal of enhancing a prosecution of the offender. As it is often difficult for an elderly victim to obtain transportation or drive themselves to the office for a consultation, the ADA and Investigator are available to respond to the victim’s residence to make the process easier for these elderly and vulnerable victims. This office works in cooperation with local law enforcement and Adult Protective Services (APS) in the investigation and prosecution of elder abuse.

If a senior citizen has been physically abused or is in danger, call 911 immediately.

Other important telephone numbers:

  • Westchester County District Attorney’s Office Elder Abuse Unit: (914) 995-3000
  • Westchester County District Attorney’s Office 24-hour hotline: (914) 995-1940
  • Westchester County Adult Protective Services Intake Line:  (914) 995-2259 (Mon. - Fri;  9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.)  Evenings, holidays, and weekends, call Emergency Services (914) 995-2099.

Hate (or bias) crimes have a wider effect upon a community than random crimes. While we all feel sympathy and compassion for victims of random crime, we don’t usually take it “personally” or become fearful ourselves. However, the reaction to hate crimes is often different because victims of hate crimes are selected based upon one’s belief, right or wrong, that the victim merely belongs to a group of people he or she dislikes. As such, other members of that targeted group often react strongly with outrage and fear, and worry about their own future wellbeing. 

Westchester County District Attorney Anthony A. Scarpino, Jr. believes in the thorough investigation and strong prosecution of these despicable acts of violence. The Bias Crimes Unit is a Vertical Prosecution Unit that is responsible for investigating and prosecuting all such crimes occurring within the county and bringing the perpetrators to justice. If you are a victim of a hate crime, call 911 and tell the police that you believe you are the victim of a hate crime.  If you have any questions, or need any additional information, contact the Hate Crimes Unit of the District Attorney’s Office at (914) 995-4172.

The word heroin has become commonplace in the last several years and unfortunately, its use continues to rise here in Westchester County, as well as around the country. 

Nearly a decade ago, the focus of law enforcement and substance abuse providers turned to prescription drugs like oxycodone and hydrocodone. The abuse of these types of drugs and the subsequent prosecution of those who used and sold them created a very different problem – heroin addiction. This resulted because abusers of prescription drugs quickly realized that heroin was easier to get and cheaper to buy on the street than prescription painkillers. 

What users did not realize was that the quality and purity of illegally produced and sold heroin could vary considerably, with one bag of powder containing 16 percent pure heroin while the next bag could contain 60 percent pure heroin. Additionally, heroin bought on the street may also be mixed with other dangerous drugs, such as fentanyl, a synthetic drug that can often be 30 to 50 times more potent than pure heroin.

This has led leading law enforcement agencies and health officials to label the recent rise in heroin use an “epidemic.”  Indeed, the numbers are staggering: 

  • A report released by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) shows heroin use has more than doubled since 2007.
  • More than 500,000 people have reported using heroin in the past 12 months, a 150% increase in just 6 years.
  • The CDC reports that heroin-related deaths nearly tripled between 2010 and 2013.
  • Felony prosecutions of offense involving heroin have increased 250% in Westchester County since 2011.

In an effort to combat this deadly drug and its devastating effect on our local communities, the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office (WCDAO) has created the Overdose Response Initiative (ORI). In collaboration with local police departments, the United States Attorney’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Westchester Intelligence Center, and the Westchester County Medical Examiner, each overdose death is treated as a crime scene and certain data is immediately reported to an Assistant District Attorney in our Narcotics Bureau.

One of the most effective results of this new initiative is our ability to identify a potentially new, lethal “brand” of heroin and to distribute that information to all area law enforcement agencies, fire departments and EMS departments. This allows for better medical response to overdose victims, as well as aiding in identifying the source of these newly created “brands” and prosecuting these suppliers to the fullest extent of the law.

Finally, two recent developments in New York State have sought to address other issues surrounding the heroin epidemic.  The first was the passage of the “911 Good Samaritan” law (Penal Law §220.78). This law allows people to seek immediate health care for someone who is overdosing without the fear that they will be charged and prosecuted for drug and alcohol possessory crimes.

The other initiative is a recent focus on training law enforcement officers in the use of naloxone, commonly referred to as Narcan.  Narcan is a medicine that, when given to a heroin or other opioid overdose victim, reverses the effects of the lethal drug. Training and equipping police officers on the use of Narcan is a practical strategy that is helping to reduce heroin fatalities.

Heroin addiction has affected every segment of our population – it does not discriminate on the basis of age, economic status or race.  To that end, the WCDAO is committed to educating the public about the dangers of this now too-familiar drug and to continue to prosecute those who commit heroin-related offenses in our ongoing effort to keep our communities safe.