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National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (April 22-28)

MEDIA RELEASE

The U.S. Constitution guarantees more than a dozen rights to those accused of committing crimes. Not one word is written in the U.S. Constitution on behalf of crime victims.

Crime attracts attention, but victims often do not. Television crime programs, local news and the criminal justice system tend to focus on the crime and the offender — not the victim.

April 22-28 is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week as proclaimed by the Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime.

Its theme, “Extending the Vision: Reaching Every Victim” calls on people to expand the vision that inspired the movement and celebrate the progress achieved to date. It captures the spirit and resolve needed to realize the common goal of reaching each victim in need of hope and help, one victim at a time, and there are so many victims.

Crime victims endure physical and emotional wounds, costly financial burdens, an often hostile criminal justice system, and an alarming tendency to be blamed by the public for the crimes against them.

In the past, victims were often disrespected by officials, their concerns minimized by the system, and afforded few rights. Things improved for crime victims after they began organizing to confront these challenges to promote fair, compassionate, and respectful responses to victims of crime but there is still a lot of work to be done.

The first crime victim compensation program began in California in 1965. By 1970, Hawaii was one of six states that had created a victim compensation program.

Today, many states have enacted victims’ rights laws and have victim compensation funds. More than 10,000 victim service agencies are now established throughout the country.

The county Office of the Prosecuting Attorney’s Victim/Witness Program was created to help crime victims and provide information about the judicial process, referrals to community agencies, crisis and short term counseling, assistance with Crime Victim Compensation, property return assistance and court accompaniment, among other services.

In 2011, the Victim/Witness Program worked with 3,827 crime victims, 1,187 witnesses, 244 secondary victims and 330 others.

During that same time period, crimes reported to Hawaii County Police included 220 sexual assaults, 1,330 assaults, 4,037 thefts, 53 robberies, 919 burglaries and numerous other crimes.

There were 23 traffic fatalities, with four related to drugs, five related to alcohol and six related to a combination of both drugs and alcohol. Also, 1,435 OVUII (driving under the influence of intoxicants) arrests and 1,400 major accidents were reported.

Also in Hawaii County during 2011, Child Welfare Services accepted 259 new cases of child abuse and neglect and referred 422 less severe cases to other agencies for services. The YWCA Sexual Assault Support Service received 510 calls for assistance and provided therapy to 278 clients.

Child and Family Service’s Alternatives to Violence Program assisted 1,298 domestic violence victims with temporary restraining orders, and 238 adults with emergency shelter services.

The Office of the Prosecuting Attorney recently formed an Elder Abuse Unit, which identified 54 cases perpetrated against elderly victims. Crimes against the elderly are a growing concern and amongst the most under-reported crimes in the country.

“Our commitment to ‘extend the vision’ and ‘reach every victim’ will overcome the many challenges that confront us now,” Prosecuting Attorney Charlene Iboshi said. “The vision, determination, and passion for justice that inspired our history will help us transform the future for every victim of crime.”

For more information, contact Lisa Faulkner-Inouye at 961-0466.

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