Nature and Causes of Crimes by Elderly Offenders

Psychiatrists and forensic experts agree that crimes committed by elderly offenders are psychotic in nature. Psychiatrist Rayel, M (2001) declared in his investigations of male elderly offenders admitted to maximum-security ward of forensic hospital to obtain clinical and demographic data that 70% of geriatric felons committed violent crimes. The psychiatrist emphasized that 41% of the violent crimes are psychotic in nature and 45% of offenders are with history of head trauma, neurological and mood disorder. This also explains the fact that almost 80% of elderly offenders in Canada committed sexual offences

as revealed by Uzoaba 1988). They maybe suffering from neurological and mood disorder when they consummate the act. The author further revealed that 59% of male offenders guilty of violent crimes had previous psychiatric confinement in hospitals. On the nature of crimes commited, investigators agree on the trend. Sapp, D. (1989) revealed from Uniform Crime Reports of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for 1972 to 1981 that the percentage of all arrests and that of elderly offenders were declining while the population of the elderly was rapidly increasing.

This is not the case in Canada because yearly, the elderly offender population in this country increase five times more than the increase in population of younger law offenders as reported by Uzoaba (1988). Sapp, D (1989) further reported that the percentage of elderly offender arrests for index crimes was on the up trend with the greatest increase in property crimes. This was not proven true in the case of Canada as the most common offence there by elderly offender were sexual assault incest and pedophilia. Property crimes ranks second to sexually related offences in Canada.

From Pennsylvania State University, Steffensmeier (1987) basing his statement from the Uniform Crime Reports for 1964 to 1984 said that in the first year (1964), there was a sharp 11 rise in arrest figures of elderly offenders for three offenses namely larceny-theft, drunk driving and traffic altercations. The author further said however, that arrest figures have fallen sharply for four offenses namely drunkenness in public, disorderly conduct, vagrancy and gambling. Steffensmeir (1987) further claimed that while elderly offender arrests

involving alcohol related crimes is overwhelming in 1964, increasing trend of arrest involving larceny-theft or shoplifting was observed in late 1980s and the offenders were mostly elderly females. The author concluded that in the span of 20 years, from 1964 to 1984 an over-all nil decline in elderly offender crimes was observed. The information from U. S. sources that commonly, elder offenders commit crimes while under abnormal psychological state was supported by studies from U. K. Needham-Bennett, et al. (2002) of St. Thomas’s Hospital in London stated the following:

“Ninety-seven of the 153 offences (63%) involved shoplifting. Fourteen (28%) of all those interviewed were identified as cases by Automated Geriatric Examination for Computer Assisted Taxonomy (AGECAT). Amongst shoplifters, 38% were identified as cases, with nine out of the 11 cases belonging to AGECAT organic and depressive syndrome groups (Abstract,8th line) Under U. K. law, the apprehending authority must only caution the elderly offender if the case is not within the AGECAT classification to be followed by dismissal and the elderly is entitled to a clean record.

The elderly offender with violations confirmed under AGECAT or mentally derailed during the act of the crime will be sent to Social Services which serve as halfway house. Japan is also maintaining its elderly offender crime data. While in U. S. and U. K. , the most prevalent crime of the elderly is against property, in Japan, it was reported that manslaughter is the top offense while theft ranks second among the violations by the elderly. A professor of Criminology, Miyazawa, K. (1992) reported the following in relation to 12 crimes of the elderly offender in Japan:

“In 1989, the number of elderly individuals apprehended by the police stood at around 12,000 or roughly 3. 9% of total apprehension but represents a considerable increase over the 1977 ratio of 3%. (…). By sex, women overwhelmingly-at over 92% commit theft. Among men, this offense accounts for 63%, with fraud and embezzlement being Relatively higher” (p107). The author further revealed that in the case of manslaughter or murder, the case represents 4% among men and 7. 7% among female elderly offenders. The case of murder in Japan normally involve suicides and double suicide attempts among husband and wife, the

author further revealed. Miyazawa (1992) further reported that next to manslaughter, theft ranks second among the offences by the elderly and this represents only 1. 3% of the elderly due to the fact that breaking and entering into houses require some skills and physical agility which is lacking among the elderly. The author further revealed that shoplifting and bicycle theft are offences that can be done easily and this represents a relatively high number of offences among the Japanese elderly. The execution of laws for prosecution of elderly offender’s in the U. S. is stricter than

in U. K. and Japan. In the U. S. , an elderly offender is quickly put in jail the moment the guilty verdict is handed down by the court. In U. K. , only a caution from the police authorities is given to elderly offender and then they will be issued a clean record if the offence was proven committed not under abnormal psychological state and then sent home. If the offence was under an abnormal psychotic stage, the elderly offender will be sent to Social Agencies for help and not to jail or half way house in the case of elderly offender in the U. S. In Japan, as reported by Miyazawa (1992.

), the court and police authorities treat the elderly offenders with compassion. More than 90% of cases involving shoplifting and 13 bicycle theft are disposed off without trial by the authorities and without detention as punishment. At the court level, Miyazawa revealed that in 1989, out of a total of 12,400 theft cases involving elderly offenders, about 50. 6% were dismissed and indictment suspended. For elderly women, 80. 3% of theft cases were dismissed. This goes to show that the legal instrument of suspended indictment is applied greatly to elderly offenders especially on women.

Miyazawa further indicated that frequently, there were reported sexual offences being done by elderly offenders especially male elderly toward young girls but these are reports only and are attributed to prejudice and misinterpretation of the act. Related to sexual offences by the elderly offenders, Jones (2001) reported that Canada has documents to prove the crime of sexual offence by elderly offenders. According to the author, “this unprecedented number was spawned by a surge in convictions for historical sex crimes like rape, pedophilia, and incest” (Factors on Aging, 12th par. ).

Miyazawa offered explanation as to the nature and reasons for the offences of the elderly offenders and they are as follows: “The elderly are forced to retreat from social life against their will, which lead to resentment and further, for many means of serious economic and psychological deprivation. The result may be deviant behaviour. The elderly, still in possession of their physical and psychological capabilities, have to maintain a way of life appropriate to their age. However, if the loss of work due to retirement is not compensated for by another energy outlet, this energy may be directed towards deviant behaviour”.

(p109) A cross-cultural analysis of the nature and causes of elderly offender between, US, UK, Canada and Japan indicates that the trend of offences is on the rise. A number of psychiatrists and forensic experts in US, Canada and UK revealed in most of the offences committed by the elderly,a history of head trauma and psychological disorder is always 14 associated to the offence. The explanation of Miyazawa (1992) that the elderly when forced into retirement and retreat from social life which they usually enjoy while still employed will normally result to deviant behaviour is exactly right.

This is for the reason that the elderly offenders still have the physical strength and psychological capability to enjoy and maintain a way of life appropriate to their age and stature in life. If this human right is curtailed, then psychotic behaviour will ensue as they have no outlet for their frustrations and energy. The elderly will resort to deviant behaviour. It is an accepted fact that companies are hesitant to employ a senior citizen for the reason that psychologically and physically, they are already incapacitated and therefore cannot take anymore the pressure of the job.

Educated and professional retirees think and feel otherwise and this is a fact of life. If they are unemployed and spent all their savings at the later stage of their life, or their savings was placed on bogus investments, they will resort to index crimes to get even with society. To prove that they are still physically capable, they will do crimes against property in the likes of shoplifting and bicycle theft in Japan in an effort to maintain their social life which is their comfort zone. Other elderly offenders in an effort to provide outlet for their energy and adrenalin rush will

drink heavily and cause trouble in the neighborhood or drive their car disregarding the laws on safe driving which later own will cause crime on lives and properties. Another crime which is very rampant among retired elderly offenders is the crime of sexual assault directed to young girls. My personal interviews with a number of them revealed that they did the act to prove to themselves and to the society that they are not yet invalid and sexually incapacitated as was the case in Canada wherein sexual assault is the top elderly offender crime being committed.