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Armed robbery at Winston-Salem assisted living center raises security questions

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — A Winston-Salem assisted living center was robbed at knifepoint early Friday morning; raising questions about security in nursing and assisted living facilities in our state.

An investigation revealed a man, armed with a butcher knife, forced his way into the Cornerstone Living Center at 2900 Reynolds Park Road around 2:55 a.m.

The suspect took the victim’s cellphone and wallet, according to police. In addition, the suspect allegedly took a large quantity of prescription medication from the office, before leaving the scene in a dark-colored passenger vehicle. No one was injured.

FOX8 attempted to contact the Cornerstone Living Center about the incident - and their security measures - but whoever answered the phone said “no comment” and promptly hung up.

“It can be traumatic. It can certainly change the tone and the dynamic within a facility,” said Blair Barton-Percival, Director of the Piedmont Triad Area Agency on Aging.

The Area Agency on Aging is “dedicated to monitoring the rights of residents in institutionalized settings, both skilled nursing and adult care homes.”

The Area Agency on Aging said, in North Carolina, it’s generally up to individual facilities to decide which security measures to take.

“For Federal, and State assisted livings; there does not seem to be any guidelines, or standards, or mandates in regards to physical safety,” said Barton-Percival.

He added that most the regulations are more like common sense items, instead of clear-cut in black and white. Many of the facilities have higher levels of security; including locked doors, keycards and cameras. Some of the facilities we visited in the Piedmont-Triad told us they do extensive safety training with their staff and lead discussions with their residents.

However, Barton-Percival told FOX8 that some of the facilities only meet the minimum “guidelines,” instead of exceeding them.

Another danger may be closer to residents than families may realize. In many of the facilities, the elderly may be mixed in with younger, sick, or mentally ill residents. The Area Agency on Aging said there are at least a few murders which take place at nursing homes or assisted living facilities every year in North Carolina.

“And physical abuse,” said Barton-Percival. “It doesn’t have to come right down to murder to make it wrong, right? There’s been physical abuse.”

The Area Agency on Aging said it is primarily the responsibility of family members, or self-admitting residents, to check the security measures at each facility and they can help you with the process. To contact them, visit the Piedmont Triad Regional Council website, at http://www.ptrc.org.

Anyone with information on the armed robbery at Cornerstone Living Center is requested to call the Winston-Salem Police Department at (336) 773-7700 or Crime Stoppers at (336) 727-2800.

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