From the Public News Service in Nashville Tennessee, June 15, 2009
Tennesseans with disabilities are being victimized by criminals looking for easy targets. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) reports that crimes against people with disabilities in Tennessee, primarily thefts, assaults and burglaries, were up 88 percent so far in 2009.
Carol Westlake, executive director of the Tennessee Disability Coalition, says the rise in crimes against Tennesseans with disabilities could be tied to the current recession.
"It may have to do with the economy and money being tight in general. You know, if I'm going to commit a crime, people with disabilities are easier prey."
As the state legislature finalizes a budget this week, Westlake is concerned about Governor Phil Bredesen's proposed cuts, including the elimination of 718 state employees' jobs.
"That's three-quarters of those in the departments that serve people with mental retardation and mental illness."
Westlake says that adding to the problem is the attitude of some people that Tennesseans with disabilities are a burden during hard times, because there is a perception that they're not contributing to society and the economy of the state.