Victims remembered next week

Published 10:38 pm Friday, April 4, 2014

A clothesline display in the courthouse lobby will be available next week to remind visitors that anyone can be a victim of a crime. (Submitted Photo)

A clothesline display in the courthouse lobby will be available next week to remind visitors that anyone can be a victim of a crime. (Submitted Photo)

One local man who was the victim of a burglary and theft says the victim and witness advocates in the Suffolk Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office helped keep him updated throughout the process of the criminal case.

“I didn’t realize there were so many steps involved in it,” said the man, who did not want to be named because he knows the offender and fears retribution. “Everybody that I talked with in that office and dealt with was extremely helpful, and they answered my questions without reserve. They made the best of a bad experience.”

Next week, April 6-12, is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. President Barack Obama and Mayor Linda T. Johnson have signed proclamations recognizing the special week, and a variety of activities are planned in Suffolk to commemorate the week.

Email newsletter signup

“I guess what we really want the community to know is the purpose of Victims’ Rights Week, to give them an opportunity to recognize the rights and the needs of victims,” said Diane Bryant, director of Suffolk’s victim/witness program.

Bryant said many victims and witnesses the four people in her division come into contact with have never been involved in the criminal justice system before.

“We have knowledge and experience to help them to navigate the process,” Bryant said. “We work with everyone that’s connected to the victim.”

The four people in the division have a combined 49 years of experience helping victims and witnesses and provided services to 5,700 people last year.

“We’re in court every day,” said Allison VanPeeren, who also works in the office. “They go by what they have heard or what they see on TV.”

“They’re afraid, and they don’t know what is available,” Angie Owen added.

The office is available to help victims by explaining the process, connecting them to resources, including financial compensatin, and being available for help, even years after the case has been closed. They also conduct educational appearances to help prevent crimes from happening and steer young people away from a life of crime. It’s much more than just the stereotypical pat on the back in the courtroom, they said.

“We try to educate the public to prevent crimes from occurring,” Commonwealth’s Attorney C. Phillips Ferguson said. “Every crime that doesn’t occur is one less person that is victimized.”

The victim/witness office will place a memorial wreath outside the courthouse next week. It will include seven roses in memory of the seven victims of violent crime in Suffolk last year.

In addition, a display in the courthouse lobby, 150 N. Main St., will feature a clothesline with items ranging from an infant’s onesie labeled “They wouldn’t feed me” to a T-shirt that reads “They shot me four times.” It’s a reminder anyone can become a victim, VanPeeren said.

“Crime can affect anyone from infancy to adulthood,” she said.

Also, a blood drive is planned at the bloodmobile, which will be parked outside the courthouse from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on April 11.

To connect with victim/witness services, call 514-4365.