Every crime leaves a victim. Tuesday afternoon's gathering in the atrium of the Douglas County Courthouse was a recognition of crime victims. Kathryn Senn of the Douglas County Attorney's Office-Victim/Witness Office, welcomed the crowd and spoke...
Every crime leaves a victim.
Tuesday afternoon's gathering in the atrium of the Douglas County Courthouse was a recognition of crime victims. Kathryn Senn of the Douglas County Attorney's Office-Victim/Witness Office, welcomed the crowd and spoke of the crime victims who are often overlooked in the general public. She told the assembled dignitaries and visitors that victims and survivors of sexual assault, homicide and child abuse are often cited as crime victims. Senn suggested that an overlooked segment of that population are those who are victims of property crimes.
Together with program co-coordinator Mary Russom, the county's victim/witness office serves about 1,200 victims a year, many of which are victims of property crimes. Senn cited examples of the impact of property crimes, like an elderly couple whose car was demolished in a hit and run accident.
"Living on a fixed income, and receiving little insurance settlement for their loss, how is the couple to replace their vehicle?" asked Senn. "What is the impact on the victim whose home is burglarized and grandmother's irreplaceable wedding ring is stolen"?
Russom, who has been with the county attorney's office for 32 years, stated the purpose of the victim/witness office is "to insure victim rights are upheld by all facets of the criminal justice system.
"Criminals have their attorneys, the state has its attorney, but there is no representation for victims except through the victim/witness office," Russom added. "Unfortunately, defendant rights will always trump victim rights but our job is to insure the victim has been provided the opportunity to assert their rights as a victim".
Fifty to 60 percent of the funding for the operation of the victim/witness office comes from the Wisconsin Department of Justice and the balance is from the budget of Douglas County according to Russom.
She explained the process of victim services to the Telegram. Once a suspect has been charged with a crime, the victim/witness office receives notification of any and all victims of the crime. The office then contacts the victim via mail with information about their rights and contact information should the victim choose to pursue any of the services available.
"Any services, all services, or no services the victim chooses to avail themselves of, is totally up to the victim," Russom said. "We will assist in any way but don't 'push' our services on any victim."
Services include notification of the defendant's court appearances, notification of the county attorney's intention to plea bargain charges, restitution issues and other advocacy items.
In closing statements of the ceremony, Douglas County District Attorney Dan Blank summed up the focal point saying, "We recognize what appears to be considered a relatively minor crime can have a large impact on the victims."