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My turn, Alberta Mclaughlin: Crime victims have an advocate at Salisbury Police Department

By Alberta Mclaughlin

The theme for this year’s year National Crime Victims Week, which ended Saturday, was “Honoring Our Past; Creating Hope for the Future.”

What does this mean to our community of Salisbury? It means we will begin to acknowledge the journey and courage of crime victims and survivors and begin to celebrate on their behalf as a community. We will begin to celebrate progress made by those before us as we look to a better future for crime victim services. We will be more inclusive and accessible when addressing needs of families in crisis.

In 1982, the Federal Victim and Witness Protection Act brought fair treatment standards to victims and witnesses in the federal criminal justice system. In addition, California voters approved and passed Proposition 8, which had guarantees restitution and other statutory reforms to crime victims.

In 1986, the Office for Victims of Crime awarded the first grants to support state victim compensation and assistance programs. Two years later, victim services programs were established — known today as the Office of Victim and Survivor Rights and Services.

Today, we have a brighter future knowing a victim have rights:

• A crime victim has the right to be treated with dignity, fairness, respect and privacy.

• A crime victim has the right to be protected from the accused offender.

• A crime victim has the right to be notified of court proceedings and events in the criminal justice process, including release or escape of the offender.

• A crime victim has the right to be protected from intimidation and harassment

• A crime victim has the right to restitution from the offender.

• A crime victim has the right to crime victim compensation.

President Bill Clinton during his remarks at a June 26, 1996 announcement of a Victim’s Rights Constitutional Amendment said, “When someone is a victim, he or she should be at the center of the criminal justice process, not on the outside looking in. Participation in all forms of government is the essence of democracy. Victims should be guaranteed the right to participate in proceedings related to crimes committed against them. People accused of crimes have explicit constitutional rights. Ordinary citizens have a constitutional right to participate in criminal trials by serving on a jury. The press has a constitutional right to attend trials.

All of this is as it should be. It is only the victims of crime who have no constitutional right to participate, and that is not the way it should be.”

As your victim and witness advocate at the Salisbury Police Department, I am looking forward to creating a support group to the survivors of crime — a safe environment to share pain, stories and unspoken and lost words.

An all-inclusive, holistic environment will permit survivors who are further along in their healing to give hope to those whose are newly in bereavement.

I look forward to walking with victims of crime along their journey, sitting in the midst of their pain, letting them know they are not alone. I stand with you.

Alberta McLaughlin is a victim and witness advocate at the Salisbury Police Department. Contact her at alberta.mclaughlin@salisburync.gov.



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