CENTRAL FALLS, R.I. (WPRI) — The Central Falls Police Department is one of the first law enforcement agencies in Rhode Island to have all of its members trained in recognizing the signs of elder abuse.

“This effort is yet another example of the CFPD’s devotion to provide the exemplary service to our community,” Chief Anthony Roberson said Wednesday.

The training, which was conducted in partnership with the Saint Elizabeth Haven for Elder Justice, has enhanced officers’ investigative skills, allowing them to work more effectively with older victims, and also provided them the tools and resources needed to help keep victims safe and hold suspects accountable, according to Roberson.

“Since completing the program, our officers are able to see the signs of elder abuse,” he added. “Awareness truly is the key.”

Saint Elizabeth Haven for Elder Justice is a program that raises awareness of elder abuse and provides support and a safe haven for victims.

Executive Director Jeanne Gattegno said it was a pleasure to work with Central Falls police, and she was amazed at how quickly they got done with the training.

“Elder abuse is a silent problem in America and around the world. If, in fact, we have one reported case of elder abuse, there are most likely 10 more cases out there that haven’t been reported,” Gattegno said. “Last year in the state of Rhode Island, the state investigated 1,400 cases of abuse. That would really translate to 14,000. Just imagine the extent of the problem.”

“It’s a problem because elders are afraid. They’re afraid to tell people. They’re afraid of retaliation. They’re afraid that they are going to be taken away from their homes. They’re also afraid because they’re isolated and they don’t have someone to speak to,” she continued.

Roberson says the department plans to repeat the training annually.

“We have the responsibility to really be able to look at elder abuse to see the signs and then to take action,” Gattegno said. “It begins with keeping an elder safe, but it really also begins with a proper prosecution of the perpetrator.”