Seniors vs. Crime
The Highlands County Sheriff's Office's Seniors vs. Crime Project Office was launched in 2018 and has since recovered more than $75,000 for Highlands County residents.
A project of the Attorney General's Office, Seniors vs. Crime is not just for seniors. It is for anyone who is dealing with an issue that is civil, rather than criminal, in nature. These types of cases include issues with contractors and other construction/home repair disputes and other issues with contract disputes. The volunteer "Senior Sleuths" help citizens resolve these issues if they are civil in nature, and if it is discovered there was a crime, the issue is referred to law enforcement.
Civil vs. Criminal
A civil dispute involves a legal dispute between two or more parties. If the two parties can’t reach an agreement to avoid a costly court process, then a civil case is filed with the courts.
The person/entity filing the civil case is the “plaintiff” and the person/entity being sued is called the “defendant.”
Contrast this with criminal cases where a victim of a crime does not sue, but rather, the State (plaintiff) charges the person allegedly committing the crime (defendant), and the victim becomes a witness in the case. Another way to view this - a crime is a violation of a law established by a government agency, either city, county, state, or federal.
Contrast this with the “dispute” between two or more parties in a civil dispute. There is no such thing as a “civil crime.”
Civil disputes involve many civil actions. All of the civil proceedings are expensive and arduous, and out of the financial and emotional reach of most people. The Seniors vs. Crime Project’s Senior Sleuths do everything possible to reach a settlement for a victim without cost and without public or family embarrassment, and have proven to be successful in a high percentage of their cases.
Types of issues the Seniors vs. Crime office can assist with include:
- Contract disputes
- Construction complaints
- Refund trouble
- Identity theft
- Product complaints
- Warranty problems
- Recovery of funds
- Medical billing refunds
- Website complaints
- Phone and computer scams
- Real estate disputes
- Home repair issues
If you have an issue that is not on that list, that doesn't mean the Senior Sleuths can't help. Feel free to contact them about any civil matter. If they can't help, they can likely direct you to someone who can.
A key part of the program is that the information about the case will be entered into a statewide database that is monitored by the Attorney General’s office. With 44 Seniors vs. Crime offices around the state it would raise a red flag is the same contractor has been doing the same kind of thing in multiple locations. In that case, the AG investigators will have the opportunity to begin a statewide criminal investigation.
The Seniors vs. Crime Project Office is open at HCSO headquarters at 400 S. Eucalyptus St. in Sebring every Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
To file a complaint (victims must make the request, so no third-party complaints are allowed), anyone can come in during those hours, or call 800-203-3099. Another method would be to go to SeniorsVsCrime.com and file a complaint online. All the work will be done at the HCSO building. The Sleuths are not allowed to go out in the field, so you have to come to them.
Senior Sleuths (from left): Jeff Donde, John Blajda, Carole Arnold and John Bauer.