Earlier this month, my bank account was drained by an unknown person. This happened shortly after a questionable transaction with a local food delivery person. In the same week, my neighbors (elderly and disabled) had their entire month’s income and prescriptions stolen by a trusted caregiver. I was dismayed to discover that another crime hit close to home in this same week. Guest blogger, Pam Gross, discovered a caregiver was stealing from her elderly and disabled mother. These acts prompted me to contact my local police department to discuss crimes against the disabled.
I called to set an appointment and was connected with Captain Todd Baeten of the Wausau Police Department. I was really excited to meet with him, as he was my 5th grade DARE officer! When he approached us at the Wausau Police station, I knew it was him instantly! He had not changed in 14 years!
Visiting with Capt. Baeten and Chief Hardel
I had expected to just sit down and interview Capt. Baeten, but he took the time to give me a VIP tour of the entire Wausau Police Department. This was my first time visiting any police station. I was taken back by the quiet, relaxed atmosphere. It certainly was not like the Law & Order episodes I watch on TV! Everyone I met was friendly and warm, not the “tough guy” image you would expect. I even had the opportunity to chat with the Chief of Police, Jeffery Hardel.
Capt. Baeten showed us every square inch of the police station and explained every aspect of the department. I saw the interrogation rooms, the workout areas, the evidence room, the briefing room and even the gun cleaning/ shoe shining area! Along the way I met several detectives, officers and even the staff mental health therapist.
When our tour was complete we chatted about crimes against the disabled. This is a nationwide issue. Individuals with disabilities are 1.5 times more likely to be a victim of a non-fatal violent crime than individuals without a disability. Captain Baeten reported that in our community the crimes against individuals with disabilities are not necessarily more frequent, but when they do occur, they are egregious in nature. These crimes are mostly a result of abuse (physical, mental, sexual and financial).
I asked Captain Baeten about his opinion regarding the underreporting of crimes against individuals with disabilities. He stated that he did not have statistics on this, but his gut feeling is that many crimes go unreported. He believes that unreported crimes can be a result of the victim knowing the offender. Fear and control can prevent an individual from reporting a crime, particularly if the offender is a caregiver or family member.
Some crimes can be avoided with preventative measures. However, Captain Baeten stated that anyone can fall victim to a crime, even police officers. Being aware of your surroundings is crucial. Avoiding potential dangers is a smart practice, especially for individuals with disabilities. Surrounding yourself with positive people is another safety measure that is easily implemented.
Additionally, Captain Baeten stressed that communication is key. Individuals with disabilities who live independently should implement a “check-in” system, having a friend or family member check in with them at designated times. Captain Baeten stated that people need to “reach across and form connections”, not just with friends and family, but with their community in general.
Captain Baeten provided me with an important tip. He suggested setting the lock screen on your cell phone with emergency contact information. My mom and I went home and immediately set this into action. Another option is to wear identifying information in the form of a bracelet or necklace. Check out the blog on the If I Need Help ID Tag I ordered a while ago. These tips are not just relevant in the event of a crime, but also in the event of an accident or medical emergency.
I asked Captain Baeten about self-defense tactics. He feels these would be beneficial if available. Self defense classes can not only teach you techniques in protecting yourself, but also ways to avoid dangerous situations. A self-defense class is another way to form positive friendships and community connections.
Victims who are traumatized as a result of a crime should seek out professional help. The Wausau Police Department has a mental health therapist on staff to assist with victims of crime. This is a new program for the Wausau Police Department, implemented at the end of last year. I think this is a very important service as the impact of a crime does not end when the case is closed. I am really impressed that the Wausau Police Department recognizes this and has taken action.
I will be featuring the personal stories of the crimes I mentioned in the opening of this post in a near future blog. I encourage my readers with disabilities to reach out to their local law enforcement to make connections and seek out resources for crime prevention. Additionally, stay connected to friends, family and your community.
I would like to thank Captain Todd Baeten for his time and helpful tips. Thank you to the entire Wausau Police Department for your efforts, support and service to our community.
Until next time, Keep Rollin’ and Keep Smilin’.
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