TRENTON — Legislation that would increase the penalties for theft scams aimed at senior citizens and people with disabilities is moving through the Legislature, nearly four years after it was first introduced.

The bill, S601, which was endorsed by the Senate Law & Public Safety Committee, would make the fiscal victimization of a senior or disabled person a specific crime.

State Sen. Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth, the lead sponsor, said seniors have always been prime targets for criminals but that technology has made it easier to find them and raid their life savings.

“There is an increased amount of purposeful targeting of senior citizens and disabled for scams, et cetera,” O’Scanlon said. “These folks are frequently more vulnerable to such scams, so they’re both vulnerable and there’s no additional penalty to dissuade someone from purposely targeting them. So this will fix that.”

The crime created by the bill would be an additional charge for suspects accused of theft of money or valuables. The new offense would be a crime of the fourth degree, or one degree higher than the most serious underlying crime. Judges could impose separate sentences for each conviction.

“It raises the penalties substantially for folks that purposely target these groups,” O’Scanlon said.

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The bill has languished since it was introduced in 2016, and it might not be on the fast track for approval now despite getting a hearing in the opening days of the new session. It was referenced to the budget committee for an additional hearing before it can reach the Senate floor.

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at

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