The Rutherford Report—DA Offers Support for Crime Victims

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“Only in the agony of parting do we look into the depths of love.”

—George Eliot
(Mary Ann Evans)
DA Offers Support for Crime Victims

The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s office gives crime victims a voice in the justice system while its Bureau of Victim Services offers them a shoulder to lean on as they deal with the emotional and financial implications of their ordeals.

“It helps them understand the system better,” San Bernardino County District Attorney Victims Services Chief Flerida Alarcon said. “It’s important for them to have an advocate they can talk to who knows the resources in the community and can get them the help they need.”

A murder victim’s family, for example, may seek help applying for reimbursement from the the California Victims Compensation Program for funeral costs, grief counseling or other expenses related to the crime.

Advocates also help crime victims understand the court process, keep them apprised of important court hearings, and occasionally they sit quietly next to victims on the witness stand.

“That seems to ease the stress for some victims,” Alarcon said.

After the terrorist shooting at the Inland Regional Center on Dec. 2 that claimed 14 lives and left more than 20 wounded, victim advocates coordinated with the FBI so survivors and the families of those killed could retrieve items left behind in addition to helping them apply for the state compensation program.

Victim Services recently added two canine advocates to its staff of 23. Lupe and Dozer—both specially trained Labrador Retrievers—often work with children and are trained to work with developmentally disabled persons and the elderly. The dogs reduce victims’ anxiety, making it easier for prosecutors and investigators to get the information they need to build solid criminal cases.

“It’s a tremendous help when you are being asked to talk about something horrible that happened to you,” Alarcon said.

Advocates help crime victims who have had property stolen complete the paperwork needed to request restitution be ordered by the court.

Some crime victims go uncompensated for years because the criminals who victimized them don’t have jobs to pay the restitution that has been ordered, but when the criminals are employed, their wages can be garnered by court order.

There are times when victims decline the help because they think they can get through it without support.

“They are so overwhelmed thinking about the loss of their loved one that they aren’t thinking about themselves,” Alarcon said. “We let them know the program is here for them if they change their mind.”

They also inform them about deadlines victims have to apply for assistance. Adult victims have one year from the date of a crime to submit a claim to the California Victim Compensation Program, while minors have up to three years after they turn 18.

“We encourage them to at least fill out the application even if they are not interested,” Alarcon said.

Children are especially impacted when a parent, sibling or close loved one is murdered or killed in a drunk driving crash. That’s why the District Attorney’s office partnered with Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital to host Camp Good Grief.

Located in the serene San Bernardino County Mountains, the free, three-day camp offers children between the ages of 10 and 16 the opportunity to speak with counselors about their loss. They also get to talk to other children who have had similar experiences.

“It’s really beneficial for the kids,” Alarcon said. “Plus they get to participate in activities like hiking and zip lining and enjoy just being kids.”

Visit to learn more about the Bureau of Victims Services.
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