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      Background checks to help seniors

      Senior centers and law enforcement across Marquette County are working to better protect senior citizens. Seniors can now perform background checks on potential caregivers before they allow them to work in their homes.

      Background checks are giving seniors a leg up in providing their own security. Over the past year, seniors in Marquette County have more often fallen victim to theft, sometimes from their own caregivers. Thanks to the Marquette County Senior Safety Coalition, residents can easily request a background check on someone before they hire them as a caregiver. The coalition is a group of representatives from many senior services and law enforcement representatives.

      "The committee believed that by taking a couple of steps like this background check, it would help protect seniors from incidents happening like that," said Detective Captain Gordie Warchock of the Marquette Police Department.

      "It gives them some peace of mind that the individual has no type of bad history or blemishes on their record or criminal record," said Marquette County Prosecuting Attorney Matt Wiese. Wiese played a key role in wording the form and legalizing it.

      In May, caretaker Heather Walin and her sister, Jessica Reynolds, were sentenced for stealing from 93-year-old Natalia Broderick. Walin had a prior conviction of stealing from another elderly woman. Broderick may not have hired Walin as caregiver if she had known.

      "I didn't do a background check, which everybody should do," said Broderick. "All senior citizens need to do that."

      For a background check, all you need is the form drafted by the coalition. Filling out the form is a breeze. Just supply the name, birth date, and driver's license number of the person in question, then send it to your local police. The requested information should take under 24 hours. It is available under the Freedom of Information Act.

      "With record management systems these days, it's a couple strokes of the key, and we can get the information you requested," Captain Warchock said.

      The form and informational brochures are available at all police departments and senior centers across Marquette County. The form and other information will eventually be on the prosecuting attorney's website, but Wiese said it may take a few weeks.

      The checks are designed with senior citizens as the primary focus, but Captain Warchock says the service can also be used for other situations that involve a stranger working in your home, such as a nanny.