The Maine Attorney General’s Office is forming a task force to improve and increase prosecutions of financial exploitation cases and other crimes against older Mainers.

The task force will look for ways to encourage reluctant seniors to report abuse, especially when perpetrators are family members and other caregivers, the office announced Friday. The panel also will consider ways to improve the practices of law enforcement professionals, prosecutors and other court officials.

“With the aging of our state’s population, these crimes have become more prevalent,” said Attorney General Janet T. Mills. “We need to encourage older citizens to report crimes and to assure them that their personal and financial security is paramount, that their input is valuable and that the criminal justice system will treat them fairly.”

Mills said the task force will build on work that’s being done by other agencies to call attention to various challenges facing Maine because it has a rapidly growing senior population.

The task force will meet for the first time in the coming weeks and issue recommendations for improved law enforcement and court procedures within six months, Mills said.

The panel will be led by Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin, an expert in elder abuse cases, and staffed by Jaye Martin, executive director of Maine Legal Services for the Elderly.

The panel will have eight to 10 members, including prosecutors, law enforcement professionals, court personnel and representatives of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

“These are professionals who are dealing with these cases day in and day out,” Martin said. “There’s general agreement that these cases aren’t being prosecuted as vigorously as they should be and not being pursued as often as they should be.”

Elder abuse and exploitation were highlighted last month at the Maine Summit on Aging. Hosted by House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, and the Maine Council on Aging, the daylong event attracted more than 370 people to the Augusta Civic Center to help develop an action plan to address a variety of aging concerns, including health care, housing, transportation and legal protections.

Maine’s challenges in these areas are more acute than those of most states.

Maine is the oldest state based on median age (43.5 years) and the second-oldest based on the proportion of people 65 and older (17 percent), according to the U.S. Census. Florida is No. 1 with 18.2 percent.

Maine also has the nation’s highest proportion of baby boomers – 29 percent of its 1.3 million residents were born between 1946 and 1964 – and they’re turning 65 at a rate of 18,250 a year, according to AARP Maine. By 2030, more than 25 percent of Mainers will be 65 or older.

The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram is examining various impacts of Maine’s rapidly aging population in an ongoing special investigative series, “The Challenge of Our Age.” One segment of the series focused on financial exploitation by family members.

Mills said seniors often can be isolated by exploitation and abuse, so she wants to make sure Maine’s legal system is prepared to accommodate the special needs of seniors who may be fearful of police investigations or intimidated by court schedules. “We want to be successful in prosecuting these cases,” she said.

Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

kbouchard@pressherald.com

Twitter: @KelleyBouchard