SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) — Sergeant Mike Manthorne with the Sioux City Police Department said physical abuse of elderly people in Siouxland rose by 140% last year. He said a lack of professional care contributed to the problem.

“At the time, it was during the pandemic and a lot of people were staying home. Elderly were being cared by family members because they weren’t necessarily in nursing homes and they weren’t being seen by professionals,” said Manthorne.

Manthorne said he hopes stronger penalties for elder abuse will make a difference.

“I just think the enforcement action that we can take now will be a great benefit for us and the public,” Manthorne said.

The bill includes steeper penalties for financial abuse of elders. Carter Smith is the resource coordinator at Women Aware. He helps victims of physical and financial abuse get in touch with local resources.

He said working with a personal banker can help identify financial crimes.

“They know your account history. They know what your routine is and so if they start seeing larger withdrawals, things like that, or abnormal charges and purchases, they might be quicker to identify those things,” Smith said.

Smith said even with stronger laws in place, there’s still more work to be done.

“The law is part of addressing the issue. Now it comes down to the enforcement once it’s signed into law and so that’s where we start to see the meaningful change once we report on cases and things like that,” said Smith.

The bill passed through the House and Senate and now it just awaits Governor Reynolds’ signature.