By JOSH THALL
Capital News Service
LANSING– As the elder population of Michigan grows, lawmakers and coalitions throughout the state are working to prevent and punish elder abuse. Sen. Virgil Smith, D-Detroit, recently introduced a pair of bills that would redefine certain punishments for crimes committed against elderly or vulnerable adults. “Anytime you can pass legislation that either deters people from committing crimes, especially against seniors, or increases the punishments they face for committing the crimes, I think that’s a good thing to do,” said Derek Sova, chief of staff for Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker R- Lawton, who helped vote the bills through a Senate committee in mid-February. Sova said Smith’s Senate bills do not deal will all forms of crimes against the elderly, but focus on assault and fraud to obtain an elder’s money or property. Sova said under the new bills, some prison sentences and fines could double.