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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 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% pure heroin while the next bag could contain 60% 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 percent increase in just six years.
  • The CDC reports that heroin-related deaths nearly tripled between 2010 and 2013.
  • Felony prosecutions of offense involving heroin have increased 250 percent 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.

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.

The Westchester County Office of the District Attorney’s Child Abuse Bureau handles investigations and prosecutions of crimes against children. Assistant District Attorneys in the Child Abuse Bureau investigate and prosecute allegations of sexual and physical abuse of children age 16 and under. Our mission is to investigate thoroughly all allegations of abuse to ensure the safety and welfare of children in Westchester County. We investigate and prosecute these offenders, where appropriate, to obtain justice for the victims of abuse and prevent future harm to other children. Prosecutors in the Child Abuse Bureau have specialized training on the best practice to forensically interview children and continue to receive training to enhance their skills. A case is individually assigned to an ADA who handles the case from beginning to end so that children and their families can be as comfortable as possible throughout the duration of the investigation and prosecution.

The Child Abuse Bureau is located at 110 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in White Plains directly across from the Westchester County Courthouse. The Child Abuse Bureau is located within the Special Prosecutions Division and has a child-friendly waiting area where children can play and families can be at ease in our office. We have social services staff on site, including a trauma specialist and members of the victim’s justice center who help children feel comfortable and ensure that both parents and children understand the criminal justice process and get the services that they need. Referrals are available for individual counseling, family counseling and medical treatment. There is an Assistant District Attorney from this Bureau on call seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

Child Advocacy Center
Once a report of suspected child abuse is received, most children are seen at the Child Advocacy Center (CAC), located at the Westchester Institute for Human Development on the site of the Westchester Medical Center Campus. At the center, specially trained forensic interviewers, a forensic pediatrician who is an expert in identifying and treating child abuse, members of the Department of Social Services, Victims Assistance Services, prosecutors from the Child Abuse Unit and members of local law enforcement all work together as a team in a child-friendly center to promote an effective and coordinated response to child abuse while minimizing the trauma to child victims. The CAC allows for an immediate forensic interview of the child, a medical evaluation and provides victim services to ensure that the child and their family receive the emotional support that they need. The CAC is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and can be opened  for an emergency case overnight and on weekends.

Reporting Child Abuse
Child Abuse is a very sad, difficult and emotional event for a child and family to go through. However, often child victims and their families are afraid or embarrassed to report the abuse, out of concern for another family member or a concern for their own privacy. Reporting the physical or sexual abuse is always the right thing to do. Reporting the abuse can hopefully stop it from continuing and protect other potential victims from being abused.

  • In case of an emergency, call 911 immediately.
  • If you suspect a child is the victim of abuse or maltreatment, call the New York State Child Abuse Hotline at (800) 342-3720.
  • Mandated reporters:
    • include doctors, nurses, medical providers, therapists, social workers, mental health providers, teachers, school administrators, guidance counselors, daycare workers, and law enforcement personnel.
    • must make reports when they have reasonable cause to suspect that a child before them in their official capacity is an abused or maltreated child.
    • should call the New York State Central Registry at (800) 635-1522.

The Child Abuse Bureau is located in the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office. The phone number is (914) 995-3000.

KEEPING WESTCHESTER SAFE

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