Q: I’m concerned that my elderly mother is too generous with her money and may be taken advantage of by others. Is there anything I can do to protect her?

A: Financial abuse of seniors is a rapidly growing crime. Many solicitors, whether over the phone or in person try to “con” the elderly for their money, belongings and even their property.

One of the most widespread abuses include prize and sweepstakes scams. Con artists, via mail or telephone, use the promise of a prize or award to entice the consumer to send money or buy overpriced merchandise. The catch is that in order of obtain the “prize,” the victim is asked to pay a fee or purchase some merchandise. Usually there is no prize and the con artist pockets the money and the merchandise is either worth less than the fee or no prize is given at all. Unfortunately, many seniors think, “Maybe this time it is for real.” The reality is, they never are and we need to remind them, “if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.”

Another scam that is often targeted at the elderly is home improvement scams. Each year many citizens are victims of poor, overpriced or never-completed home repairs. The con artists show up unannounced and talk very fast. They are very convincing and often can convince a senior they need work done on their home, whether needed or not. After the con artist convinces the homeowner work needs to be done, they ask for money up front (cash only) for supplies with the promise they will complete the work quickly and efficiently. Should this happen, always ask for a business license and a business card. If you are suspicious, call our dispatch and let them know of the circumstances and give a description of the alleged contractor and his vehicle so an officer can follow up and verify their intentions.

A variation of the home improvement scam is the distraction burglary. This occurs when a subject knocks on the front door of the residence and claims to be from the gas company or water company and need access to the rear yard for things like a gas leak, electrical line repair, tree trimming in a neighboring yard, or anything that would distract the homeowner. This allows an accomplice to enter the home, steal cash or jewelry and leave unnoticed. If any worker comes to your residence without an appointment, obtain his or her name from the work ID card and get the business phone number from information, so you can call and verify the validity of the work that needs to be done. Do not allow the worker to give you the phone number, as you could be calling the accomplice. If the person is legitimate, he will have no problem giving you this information. If he refuses, call the police at (310) 458-8491.

The best way to keep these individuals from victimizing you is to simply keep your home locked, even when you are working in the yard. Remember, anytime you are outside your home, you cannot possibly see every door that a would-be thief might enter.

For further information regarding these types of crimes affecting our senior citizens, please feel free to contact our community relations department located in the front lobby of the police station in person or by phone at (310)458-8474. In addition, if you or someone you know has become a victim of either financial or physical elder abuse, please contact our Elder Abuse Liaison Claudia Nava at (310)458-6971.

Q: I see many different performers both on and around the Third Street Promenade. Are there any restrictions or rules they must follow?

A: Yes, according to Santa Monica Municipal Code 6.112.030, no performer may perform within 10 feet of any bus stop, street corner or marked pedestrian crosswalk. Nor can they be within 10 feet of the outer edge of any entrance of any business, including, but not limited to, doors; vestibules; driveways; outdoor dining area entries; and emergency exits, during the hours that any business on the premises is open to the public or to persons having or conducting lawful business within those premises.

In addition, a performer must not use any knife, sword, torch, flame, axe, saw, or other object that can cause serious bodily injury to any person, or engage in any activity, including, but not limited to, acrobatics, tumbling, or cycling, that can cause serious bodily injury to any person. Nor can a performer utilize or prevent the public from utilizing any public benches, waste receptacles, or other street furniture during the performance.

A performer and their equipment may not block or obstruct the free and safe movement of pedestrians. If a sufficient crowd gathers to observe a performer such that the passage of the public through a public area is blocked or obstructed, a police officer or fire official may disperse that portion of the crowd that is blocking or obstructing the passage of the public. If a performer cannot conduct a performance in a location without blocking or obstructing the passage of the public, a police officer or fire official may cause the performer to leave the location or require that the performer relocate his or her equipment, but shall not prevent the performer from occupying another location in compliance with this chapter.

These are just some of the rules governing performers. For further insight into this subject, please log on the City of Santa Monica Municipal code website at www.qcode.us/codes/santamonica. If you are unsure if the performer is adhering to the rules or think they are conducting their show in an unsafe or inappropriate manner, please call our dispatch at (310) 458-8491 and they will send an officer to inspect as soon as one is available.

This column was prepared by NRO Jeff Glaser (Beat 3: Downtown Area, including the Third Street Promenade). He can be reached at (424) 200-0683 or jeffrey.glaser@smgov.net.

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