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Despite Progress, More Needs to Be Done to Help Crime Victims

April 23, 2007 — April 22-28 is National Crime Victims' Rights Week, a time for all Americans to learn about victimization, reflect on the cost of crime to our society and promote laws, policies and programs to help victims of crime rebuild their lives. This week’s theme, “Victims’ Rights: Every Victim. Every Time,” envisions a strengthened national commitment to the nearly 24 million residents harmed by crime each year nationally and territory-wide.
During the past three decades, the United States has made dramatic progress in securing rights and offering protection and services for victims of crime. Every state has enacted victims’ rights laws. Law-enforcement agencies have given victims greater protection, and more than 10,000 victim-assistance programs have been established throughout the country and its territories. Every state and territory has a crime-victim compensation fund and powerful federal laws such as the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and the Crime Victims’ Rights Act to help protect victims and fund needed services.
Yet many crime victims have not experienced the promise of such progress. Only a fraction of victims report the crimes against them and participate in the criminal-justice system. Additionally, services sometimes are not available, or they may not meet the physical, financial and psychological needs of victims of their families. At a recent public gathering, John W. Gillis, director of the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs within the U.S. Department of Justice, said, “We are all diminished when victims go without the protection and help they need." He further stated, “Anytime a crime is not reported, a witness is intimidated or an order of restitution is not enforced, we are all less secure. Achieving justice means repairing the harm suffered by all victims of crime.”
The U.S. Department of Justice launched National Crime Victim’s Rights Week in Washington, D.C., with its fifth annual national candlelight observance ceremony on April 19, and its Awards Ceremony April 20 honoring extraordinary individuals and programs that provide service to victims of Crime. The V.I. Crime Victims' Compensation Commission (CVCC) will commemorate National Crime Victim Rights Week, with special events and programs during April 22-28, 2007. Among these activities will be radio and newspaper ads, television appearances and various speaking appearances.
Community members are encouraged to join in the week’s activities. Local organizations such as the Family Resource Center, Kidscope, Safety Zone, Women’s Coalition and Men’s Coalition all assist in serving the innocent victims of crime in our community. For more information about National Crime Victims' Rights Week and the Crime Victim Compensation Commission, please call the Department of Human Services, Criminal Victims' Compensation Commission at 774-1166.
Editors note:We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to source@viaccess.net.

Editor's note:Alrick Brooks is administrator of the Criminal Victims Compensation Commission.

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