ABOUT TRIAD - LINCOLN/LANCASTER COUNTY
TRIAD is not an acronym. It represents a three way effort among the sheriff, police, and seniors. They have agreed to work together to reduce the criminal victimization of older citizens and to enhance the delivery of law enforcement services to this population. Each TRIAD is designed to work together to address the needs of their own communities.
In the mid 1980’s the National Institute of Justice, the research arm of the U.S. Dept. of Justice, encouraged law enforcement entities to consider new ways of community policing. Then by 1988, representatives of AARP (American Association of Retired People), the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the National Sheriff’s Association came together to define a way to keep seniors safe from crime. Thus, TRIADs were born. In 1995, the Nebraska Department on Aging sent Lancaster County Sheriff Terry Wagner, and Eleanor Croisier, a State Representative of AARP, to St. Louis for a TRIAD Conference. After returning to Lincoln, efforts were begun to form a TRIAD here in Lincoln.
Since that time, 34 states now have statewide TRIAD agreements, and 47 states have at least one TRIAD in existence today. In 1998 there were 11 TRIADs in Nebraska. However, Lincoln is the only one currently active and registered in Nebraska. Most TRIADs begin with a SALT Council (Seniors and Law Together). This cooperative group determines, and establishes the programs and activities that their TRIAD will undertake. It provides a forum for exchange of information and ideas from the representatives of other service agencies which share similar goals. Locally they meet on the 3rd Thursday of each month.
Prior to signing the Lincoln/Lancaster County agreement in July of 1996, representatives from the Sheriff’s office, police department, and several senior organizations were invited to partake in two day training on How to Develop a Triad Program in Grand Island. Current coordinators Larry Russell and Lily Hans were both in attendance. When they were “legally” an organization, they began recruiting members, writing bylaws, defining goals and deciding how best serve the community.
It was determined that they should survey seniors about their fears and concerns about crimes, and safety in the area. Over 8000 surveys went out to seniors through NBC Bank, senior centers, retirement communities, church groups, civic organizations, AARP groups and retired teachers. Nearly 1400 were returned. Violent crimes, robbery, and safety at night were their greatest fears. Frauds, scams, and various abuses that threatened them in their homes, over the phone, through the mail or at their doors were of lesser concerns. It was decided that these areas were just the ones that needed to be addressed. Also, AARP had a national campaign about “telemarketing schemes” and were urging everyone to “Just Hang Up”. Triad joined their efforts locally.
At the same time, members began to learn as much as possible about other scams and frauds. They began a “speaker’s bureau” to reach out to groups and organizations to educate them about scams and frauds, how to report it, and how to protect themselves. This remains the ongoing effort of TRIAD.
In 1998 members of the TRIAD attended a regional conference in Tulsa, OK, - among them, Helen Boosalis, then Pres. of the National AARP who also traveled with the group. She was a big supporter of the Triad concept. There they learned about how other TRIADs were operating. Later on, in 2000, another group of Triad members attended a regional conference in Denver, and learned more about other things that TRIADs were doing. The most notable of which was promoting the use of the File of Life. It is a red plastic envelope with a magnetic strip which attaches to the refrigerator. It holds a card containing pertinent medical information which can be used by the emergency personnel in case the individual is unable to provide it. The group decided that it was something they wanted to pursue and introduce to the seniors in Lincoln and Lancaster County.
They solicited sponsors to cover the cost of an initial order of 2,000 and began distributing them when they went on speaking engagements and making presentations. They have been very well received. Currently over 12,000 have distributed. The continuing concern is that they be filled out completely and updated regularly. The envelope is often forgotten, not kept up, or used for other things.
Also in 2000, the Justice Department’s support for TRIADs waned. So the National Sheriffs Association created a new 501 (c) 3 corporation to bring uniformity to the programs. TRIADs now are part of NATI, National Association of TRIADs, Inc. It better reflects the original purpose of Triad, which is, crime prevention and promotion of safety for older citizens.
Over the 13 years of our existence, the major outreach efforts have been speaking to groups. TRIAD has spoken to hundreds of groups, many more than once. Because they realize that people need to hear the message more than once, that they may have forgotten, and that new scams and frauds are coming all the time. We speak mostly to senior organizations, senior centers, church groups, fraternal organizations, and civic clubs. But we are willing to talk to anyone who will listen. We have presentations about scams and frauds, about elder abuse, and also identity theft. We also have a display board and volunteers who go along to many senior festivals, health fairs, and real fairs to share the TRIAD message. We also have at booth at OLLI open houses. In 2008, four TRIAD members attended the 20th annual National TRIAD Conference in Williamsburg, VA and gave a break-out presentation about their local program and activities.
However, they also have created much of their own hand-out material (brochures and bookmarks) but also utilize information and brochures shared with them by the SALT Council contributing representatives. They include the Attorney General’s office, AARP, Adult Protective Services, Better Business Bureau, Union Bank, and Aging Partners.
We also have a billboard that rotates throughout the city, reminding citizens to report elder abuse, and we sponsor radio spots on radio station KFOR. And recently we have added a TRIAD web site on the Sheriff’s site to share more information about the TRIAD program and what’s new in the way of scams and frauds. http://www.lincoln.ne.gov/cnty/sheriff/triad.htm All this couldn’t be possible without the dedicated cooperation from the Sheriff, the Police Department, and a very wonderful group of talented and devoted senior volunteers.
Funding to support this group initially came from the Sheriff, Police Dept, AARP and LAAA (Lincoln Area Agency on Aging). In early 2001 AARP withdrew financial support. The program had always been housed and partially funded by LAAA under the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP). And funds from a federal grant of the Title VII Elder Abuse Funds from the State were also used to support it. In 2006 the City of Lincoln cut LAAA’s budget deeply, and the coordinator retired. LAAA also decided not to continue to support TRIAD. But the volunteers would not hear of it, they wanted to continue their mission to educate and protect their fellow seniors from frauds and scams. As the coordinator was then also a volunteer, they prevailed on her to continue as she had in the past. However, since the federal grant money supporting TRIAD is required to go to an AAA (Area Agency on Aging) it was agreed that LAAA (now Aging Partners) would continue to act as fiscal agent. The Sheriff in turn felt so strongly about TRIAD that he has provided the in-kind services of an office, and phone for the operations, materials, and files. A retired deputy sheriff also acts as co-coordinator of the program. The phone, 402-441-7743, has voice mail, and is checked at least daily, for messages by TRIAD members from their homes. Thus, TRIAD continues its efforts to learn about new scams, frauds and abuses and spread the word to the community. They always welcome visitors and potential new members, and are very willing to bring their message to interested groups.