National Crime Victims' Rights Week Celebrated
April 26 marked the beginning of National Crime Victims' Rights Week; a time to focus on victims of crime and celebrate our nation's progress in serving them. This year's theme, "25 Years of Rebuilding Lives: Celebrating the Victims of Crime Act" honors a landmark national commitment to victims of crime.
Before 1984, victims of crime received little public support. The President's Task Force on Victims of Crime, formed by President Ronald W. Reagan in 1982, found widespread poor treatment of victims by a criminal justice system indifferent to their needs. Although most states had some form of victim compensation, most programs were poorly funded. Despite the few victim assistance programs available in some states and the federal effort to fund victim/witness programs throughout the nation, most communities relied on a few grassroots organizations, ”funded by sporadic private donations and bake sales,” to help victims of crime.
In 1984, moved by the President's Task Force report findings and the work of victim advocates, Congress passed the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA), which created the Crime Victims Fund, financed not by taxpayers but by fines and penalties paid by offenders. In 25 years, the Fund has grown from $68 million to more than $2 billion and is disbursed throughout the nation in amounts determined by Congress every year.
The Fund supports victim compensation programs, which reimburse victims for many out-of pocket expenses, ”such as medical care, counseling, funerals, and lost wages,” that victims face in the aftermath of crime. It also helps fund victim assistance programs, ”such as rape crisis and domestic violence programs,” that support victims by providing physical and emotional care and guidance in navigating the criminal justice system. In 2006, VOCA funds supported more than 4,400 public and nonprofit agencies serving almost 4 million victims, and paid more than $44 million in victim compensation.
The U.S. Department of Justice opened National Crime Victims' Rights Week with its National Crime Victims' Service Award Ceremony on April 24, held in Washington, DC, to honor extraordinary individuals and programs that serve victims of crime.
Locally, National Crime Victims' Rights Week will be celebrated with an awards luncheon at the Clearwater Country Club on Friday, May 1. The luncheon will be hosted by the Pinellas County Victim Rights Coalition.
This year’s keynote speaker will be Largo Mayor Patricia Gerard, who served as the Victim Advocate for the Largo Police Department from 1984 - 1986.
Chief Lester Aradi will also be in attendance to present the 2009 Largo Award to Mary Lallucci, who after the loss of her Mother, became instrumental in raising awareness and support for the newly enacted Silver Alert program.
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