MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin is trying to curb elder abuse and gather reliable evidence for prosecutions by handing out free surveillance cameras to family members so they can secretly record caregivers whom they suspect are hurting their loved ones.

Elder abuse can include beatings, molestation, theft and neglect. People with dementia or other cognitive problems often don't realize they are victims or struggle to report incidents coherently.

Advocates say the programs provide peace of mind and evidence for investigators. Attorney General Brad Schimel says it will make it harder for caregivers to get away with preying on the elderly.

Workers in the elderly care industry and privacy advocates say they consider it a disturbing government foray into private spying.

Wisconsin data suggests the number of reported elder abuse cases is on the rise.