It is often said that victims of crime of victimized twice…once when the crime occurs and again as the person harmed is forced to navigate a complicated criminal justice system in order to ensure the offender is held accountable.
No doubt, our system of justice is complex. Those of us trusted to uphold the law work tirelessly to ensure the due process rights of defendants are protected, as this is critically important under our rule of law. It is also always a priority to ensure that those who are victimized, oftentimes by a serious violent act, have a voice and opportunity for justice.
Prosecutors, advocates, investigators, and others in this office care deeply about seeking justice for those in our community who have been harmed. They do so selflessly every day to make sure that no victim falls through the cracks, whether it be someone whose life savings has been stolen, a loved one’s life taken too soon, a child whose innocence is gone, or someone targeted by another’s ignorant hate.
Nationally, the month of April honors many victims of violent crime with National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, National Child Abuse Awareness Month, and National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, to name only a few. The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office takes the time to recognize these topics because so much of what we do goes to the heart of these observances. We hold these observances in high regard because we deeply embrace the belief that there is a need for significant public education if we are to elevate these issues and find ways to prevent them.
Arizona has historically led the way in ensuring victims of crime have a voice, and in 1990 passed the Arizona Crime Victims Bill of Rights. The following year legislation was implemented guaranteeing specific rights for crime victims including the right to be present at criminal proceedings, to be heard in court, and to be treated with fairness, dignity, and respect.
In 2020, this office provided support to tens of thousands of victims of crime. Overall, our Victim Services Division served 34,318 victims with a variety of services, including victim compensation to 5,863 victims, and 285,612 victim notifications were sent notifying victims of crime about their rights and/or the status of their case.
At a time when many of the items highlighted in the media focus on a small number of cases before this office, it is important to remember that the primary role and duty of this office is to prosecute felonies and ensure those who pose a danger to this community are held accountable.
We have serious issues to address in this community. Criminal justice reform is an important focus and finding ways for those who want to do better and be better is something I am committed to doing. We also know that prosecuting these more serious crimes is extremely complicated and deserves our time, energy, empathy, and commitment if we are to prevent others from being harmed. We must ensure that those we love, and the most vulnerable in our community, are safe.
As county attorney, I am focused on ensuring children and families are safe and for those who find themselves the victim of a crime, representing your voice in a complex criminal justice system remains paramount every single day. We can only do our best to strike a balance in these complicated times, if we are willing to listen intently with an open heart, practice judiciously, and act together.