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San Fernando Valley

Mayor Urges Senior Citizens to Become Crime Fighters

May 30, 1996

Addressing a crowd of elderly people in the men's gymnasium at Pierce College on Wednesday, the silver-haired speaker repeated the old adage that age is just a state of mind.

"I feel as young as I did when I was in [my] 20s," Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan told the audience, admitting that he turned 66 recently.

The occasion was the Los Angeles Police Department's first "Senior Safety Fair," a 3 1/2-hour event featuring exhibits and information from more than 40 organizations and city departments.

"The goal is to educate people to make them crime-resistant and to avoid being victimized," said West Valley Officer Ron Gould, who created an outreach program for seniors last summer called the Gray Squad.

At Wednesday's event in Woodland Hills, speakers offered tips on subjects such as fire and traffic safety, mail fraud and abuse of the elderly. Gould noted that there are more than 3 million senior citizens in Los Angeles County and said it is vitally important for old and young alike to realize the ways that con artists select their targets.

"We've got to start fighting back," he said. "Let's start being fighters. The only way we're going to beat these guys is to educate the public."

Riordan thanked the city's elderly residents for their assistance in reducing crime, describing them as the eyes and ears of police officers who can't be everywhere at once. Afterward, he said the fair was a great way to address the needs of a growing community in Los Angeles.

"It makes people feel that they're being wanted, that they're being listened to," he said.

Nate Pitt, a 94-year-old Van Nuys resident, said that regardless of a person's age, the key to avoiding being ripped off is simply listening with a careful ear.

"Use your judgment," he said. "You never get something for nothing."

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