DANVILLE — In the wake of home invasions in southern West Virginia targeting senior citizens, U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin made a visit to the Danville Community Center at Lick Creek to talk about safety tips for seniors.
Goodwin cautioned residents not to let anyone they don’t know into their homes, and not to open the door to any unsolicited workers.
“We’re telling people, obviously, don’t answer your door, especially if you’re elderly,” Goodwin said.
Goodwin said his office is seeing more and more home invasions targeting the elderly.
“Senior citizens are unfortunately more vulnerable and targeted because they may have prescription medications and may be living alone,” he said.
Goodwin said he offered many tips to seniors and residents to keep safe from scammers and other criminals.
Goodwin’s safety tips for seniors include:
• If you have prescription painkillers in your house, don’t talk about it anymore than necessary. If you are having a painful surgery, like a hip or knee replacement, or some other major operation, be careful who knows about it. Obviously, family and close friends should know, but seniors should be cautious and use good judgment in who else they tell.
• If you have old medicine in the house, get rid of it. Take advantage of prescription drug take back days sponsored by local law enforcement, or get rid of your medication by mixing them with coffee grounds or cat litter and throwing them in the garbage can.
• Eliminate hiding places around your house. Lots of houses have landscaping that’s beautiful, but potentially deadly if your trees and bushes create a place for a criminal to hide. Outside lighting can also discourage would be intruders.
• Consider getting a dog. A barking dog can scare off a would-be intruder.
• Stay in touch with neighbors. If you see something suspicious, let them know and ask them to do the same for you. There’s strength in numbers.
• If you see a stranger at the door, resist the temptation to immediately open the door. Ask who the person is and why they’re there, and if you are not comfortable with the answer, don’t let them in. If they won’t leave, call 911 and stay on the phone until help comes.
• Don’t hide keys in mailboxes and planters or under doormats. Instead, leave an extra set of keys with a neighbor or friend.
• If you can afford an alarm system, consider buying one. A lot of times, just the sign outside your house is enough to scare off a potential robber.
• Don’t hesitate to let the police know if you see someone suspicious hanging around you neighborhood.
• Invest in good locks for your doors and windows, as well as a peephole for your front door.
In addition to the Boone County senior location, over the past couple weeks, Goodwin has spoken at senior nutrition sites in Nicholas and Summers counties. He will be speaking at a senior center in Fayette County on Oct. 18, and also has he a Jackson County speaking event on his calendar.
“We hope to make a stop in each of our 23-county district by year’s end,” he said.
Senator Jay Rockefeller, Chairman of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Health Care, also announced that he sent 13 letters to major national health associations to spark a more intense effort on prescription drug abuse.
Prescription drug abuse appears to be a top contributor to home invasions, according to Goodwin.
Rockefeller said the groups — which represent physicians, nurses, dentists, pharmacists, medical schools, and other health professionals — understand the importance of making sure prescribers get needed training to help reduce addiction, overdoses, and deaths.
“A growing epidemic of overprescribing, misuse, and abuse of prescription drugs threaten too many Americans,” Rockefeller said.
In the letters, Rockefeller is asking for information from health associations about the daily challenges that health professionals face when prescribing drugs and seeking ideas to help make sure prescribers are equipped with the tools and resources to help reduce prescription drug abuse.