Law enforcement supports victims’ rights

Several Kitsap County law enforcement officials recently gave a presentation in support of recognizing victims’ rights and providing support for people on the receiving end of crime.

“When people are victimized by a crime, their lives are changed forever,” said Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hauge. “No one ever forgets this. When you talk about public services, you can discuss potholes and septic systems and taxes, but the most important thing that government can do is to be there and help us at this darkest time.”

Kitsap County reported three murders, 1,726 DUI cases and 2,870 domestic violence cases during 2006. Additionally, there were 698 reported sexual assaults and 936 instances of possible child abuse or neglect.

Victim Witness Coordinator Kelly Pelland said there are many reasons only a fraction of all crimes committed result in prosecution. There are senior citizens and children who are victimized by their own families and domestic violence victims who are ashamed.

Some children won’t report abuse because they feel that adults won’t believe them.

“Fear can be as devastating as the initial violent act,” said Kitsap County Sheriff Steve Boyer. “Victims of crimes can be destroyed by fear. And for a time, they weren’t allowed to speak.”

Boyer said this situation has improved after a U.S. Supreme Court decision that supported the rights of victims to testify at trials.

Boyer said another program that supports victims’ rights is the Web site, where victims of crimes (or anyone else) can register to receive a notification when a specific offender is released from jail.

He said when criminals who have threatened someone are released, the object of the threat will benefit from the knowledge.

Currently, Boyer said, notifications are sent (either by phone or e-mail) within 17 minutes of the prisoner’s release. For this to happen the person seeking the information needs to follow certain strict guidelines, but Boyer said some people will make these sacrifices in exchange for the head’s up.

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