April 28, 2014

April 6-12th is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, an annual event focusing on the work done around the country to honor crime victims and the advocates, counselors, first responders, and others who assist victims in their time of need. This year the theme is 30 Years: Restoring the Balance of Justice.

DCJ’s Crime Victims’ Unit participated in an event sponsored by the Oregon Department of Justice Crime Victims' Services Division on April 8th. They shared information about our services and were on hand to listen to a panel discussion about victims’ rights and trauma in the context of human trafficking. The event also honored community members who have made outstanding contributions to Restoring the Balance of Justice for victims of crime in Oregon.

This is an important time of year for DCJ. We serve a vital role in protecting public safety and strengthening our community. The dedication and hard work of DCJ staff helps empower and support crime victims every day. Over the last several years, DCJ has invested resources in the Crime Victim Services Unit to improve responsivity to crime victims both within DCJ and across our public safety partners.

Staff in this unit includes Denise Pena, Zara Stevens, Sarah Ohlsen, and Anita Davis. Their work ranges from helping victims identify resources, educating DCJ staff about the needs of victims, and sending information to victims. For example, they have improved restitution collection, increased the level of information victims receive regarding probation cases when desired, trained DCJ staff on crime victims’ rights, and served as a convener. Due to the focused work of this unit, restitution collection has continued to increase, victims are receiving more information regarding probation cases when requested, and more and more staff are learning about what they can do to assist victims and how they can access resources.

Their work is made stronger by working with volunteers and collaborating with DCJ staff as well as other County partners. Volunteers have consistently helped them in pulling together information for victims, among other things. The ability to increase restitution collection has been because they are working directly with Probation and Parole Officers, doing the work together. Additionally, this unit brings partners together to address sexual exploitation of children. Sarah Ohlsen, the CSEC Collaboration Specialist is working with Commissioner McKeel to lead the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) Steering Committee. This committee is a multi-jurisdictional system collaborative process that includes social services leaders, elected officials, state policy makers, criminal justice system representatives, citizens, and survivors. Her skill and knowledge are helping the various departments within Multnomah County and community organizations work together to address this issue.

During this week it is important to acknowledge that many victims have felt truly served by DCJ as staff have often gone above and beyond in many instances to show them the respect and empathy they deserve. DCJ serves a vital role in protecting public safety and the strength of our communities. Thanks to our Crime Victims’ Unit for providing focus and leadership as we continue to address the needs of the victims in our community.

To learn more, please visit http://web.multco.us/dcj/victims.