County will fund office of deputy DA for elder crimes

A Multnomah County deputy district attorney who works full time on elder abuse crimes will keep his job and his duties after all - at least for one more year.

The federal grant that had paid for Greg Moawad's position for the past four years expired this month and, without funding from Multnomah County, the position was set to end.

But the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 late last month to pay the $144,000 cost of Moawad's office.

'We're very pleased, and we appreciate the commissioners voting on this,' said Leslie Foren, director of program services for Portland's Elders in Action, a nonprofit group serving the elderly that had advocated for continuing the position.

'We really value his position, and the community needs it.'

'I'm ecstatic,' Moawad said. 'I think it's a great opportunity for our community.'

Moawad's job was to not only investigate and prosecute crimes against the elderly, but to speak to community groups to try to encourage more reporting of elder crime.

Moawad has been 'getting the word out that there is a remedy when you've been taken advantage of when you're a senior,' Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schrunk said. 'So many of these people, they're kind of at the end of the rope and (they believe) no one cares anymore … and cops are too busy and prosecutors are too busy.'

Crimes against the elderly can include physical and emotional abuse and financial fraud, often perpetrated by family members. Nationwide studies have shown that as few as one in five crimes against the elderly is reported to criminal-justice authorities. Part of his job, Moawad said, is to increase the number of crimes that are reported.

'Elder abuse is one of those topics . . . it's not very pleasant and a lot of people don't believe it actually happens,' Foren said. Moawad's efforts with agencies and groups that work with the elderly have made significant differences, Foren said.

'He really has a compassion for seniors, and really wants to get the bad guys in the place they should be,' she said. 'His work is invaluable.'

The county commissioners' vote last month funded Moawad's position through 'one-time' funds, however, which means the county may not be able to fund the position for the 2007-08 fiscal year.

'We're actively going to seek, through any number of sources, a way to keep it alive,' Schrunk said.

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