Eight people, age 78 to 100, were robbed by a woman who worked at the care home where they lived, Winnipeg police say.
A 37-year-old woman was arrested and charged on Tuesday, following a month-long investigation at the home on Henderson Highway.
Police were first alerted in March when a woman said her 93-year-old mother was missing a wedding ring and an engagement ring. Both were taken right off of her fingers sometime in February, police said.
The woman said her mother was incapable of removing the rings by herself.
The lack of respect of somebody who works in that environment and is charged with taking care of that person is what’s most disturbing.– Const . Tammy Skrabek
The investigation identified a total of eight victims, all of whom were missing jewelry. Much of it had been forcibly removed from them, police said.
“The victims are living with dementia and are considered vulnerable persons,” said police spokeswoman Const. Tammy Skrabek.
“Not only are they vulnerable and they have memory issues … they’re also not able to defend themselves and a lot of them are not able to speak.
“The lack of respect of somebody who works in that environment and is charged with taking care of that person is what’s most disturbing.”
Listen to family members
Police confirmed the home involved is the Kildonan Long Term Care Home at 1970 Henderson Highway.
The centre’s owner, Revera, confirmed in an email to CBC News that an employee was charged with theft on April 2.
“The safety and security of our residents and staff is our top priority and we are grateful to the police for resolving the situation so quickly,” a spokesperson said via email.
“It would not be appropriate to comment further on a matter that is under investigation by the police.”
Tom Farrell, president of the Manitoba Association of Senior Centres, called the situation heartbreaking.
“There is no question, it’s a complete loss of trust,” he said Friday.
“One of the things that all of us do is we … trust those people who are caring for our loved ones.”
He said crimes of this nature aren’t common and said the majority of people working in long-term care facilities are good people.
He applauded Winnipeg police for acting quickly once a report was made.
“One of the things that I think has to happen is families have to listen to their family members who are in assisted living facilities or in senior residences,” he added.
Farrell said family members should keep in contact with managers of facilities where loved ones are staying and report any suspicious activity to both management and police.
Some property recovered
Police said many of the people stolen from didn’t have a lot of family, which could explain why there was only one report before the investigation was launched.
“Some of the people there had children who’ve already passed, so there wasn’t a lot of people taking care of them,” she said.
In other cases, family members might initially think the items were just misplaced, Skrabek said.
Police don’t often encounter thefts like this, she said.
“But from time to time, you do get somebody who sees this as a crime of opportunity and does prey on somebody vulnerable,” she said.
Some, but not all, of the stolen jewelry has been recovered. It had been sold to local pawn shops and gold buyers, police said.