POMEROY — With the theme of “Expand the Circle; Reach All Victims,” Sunday evening’s annual National Crime Victims’ Rights Week ceremony was a time to pay tribute to those gone too soon, honor those impacted by crime and learn about what can be done to help the youngest victims of crime.
Prosecutor James K. Stanley, in welcoming those in attendance, noted the importance of the event to honor all victims, primarily those taken too soon.
Stanley thanked the advocates who work through the Meigs County Victim Assistance Program who “are truly dedicated to protecting the rights of all victims” and making sure “their voices are heard.”
The prosecutor also spoke briefly about Marsy’s Law which gave constitutional rights to victims of crime in the state of Ohio. The Meigs County Prosecutor’s Office was one of the first to endorse the ballot measure which was overwhelmingly approved by voters last fall. Marsy’s Law formalizes many of the things which the Victim Assistance Program has been doing prior, while also providing guidelines and assistance to law enforcement to help victims.
Stanley spoke of the 452 shoe display representing the new victims of crime in Meigs County in 2017, victims who are “our friends, our family, our neighbors, they’re our children, our grandchildren, our elderly, they’re a significant portion of our community,” stated Stanley. The display will remain outside the courthouse throughout the week.
Victim Assistance Director Theda Petrasko spoke about the START program, introducing Inter-County START Coordinator Bethany Bolin who detailed the program.
START, which stands for Sobriety Treatment And Reducing Trauma, is a pilot program of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to help families impacted by the opioid epidemic.
Bolin noted that 75 percent of reports to children services are drug related. While the cases are increasing, children services funding in Ohio has decreased. Ohio is 50th in the nation in funding for children services, while the children are the ones who suffer the most in drug situations.
That is where the START program comes in. The pilot program is a grant funded program which provides for intensive case management, support for the family by peer mentors and trauma counseling. The program works toward sobriety for the adults in the family, while maintaining the family relationship in the home for the children.
The program which began earlier this year is currently serving two families and hopes to expand services.
Petrasko stated that “START is a start in the need to reach all victims, with a focus on reaching the children.” Making a difference in the lives of the children at a young age can help break the generational pattern of individuals entering the court system, noted Petrasko.
“Addiction is like a cancer, it effects everyone around them,” said Petrasko. Petrasko noted that children in a home with an addict are four times more likely to be neglected, and three times more likely to be verbally, sexually or physically abused.
Petrasko spoke of a training she recently attended which talked about collaborative services to help children who are the victims in the opioid epidemic. She added that the vast majority of all criminal cases, and therefore victims of crime, relate back to the drug epidemic.
Children in the homes of addicts may witness violence, suffer from abuse, be kept up a night with the things happening in the house, or have their needs not being met, said Petrasko.
In order to expand the circle and reach all victims, Petrasko called on agencies to come together and share information to get the needed help for children to break the cycle. Working together can help to identify the needs of the children in individual situations, as well as the services that are out there to assist them.
“We can fill these gaps and we can find solutions,” said Petrasko. “We have a team of good people that can make a difference for these kids.”
Commissioner Tim Ihle, before leading the invocation, spoke about the impact of being a victim of crime can have on a family. Ihle noted that his wife had twice been the victim of an armed robbery. “You don’t realize the domino effect it can have on everyone,” said Ihle. He noted that he did not realize how what they had experienced could channel into making a difference for others, something his children are doing in their jobs. Ihle’s daughter is a school counselor and was one of the individuals to launch Eastern’s Eagle Pack Program, while his son works in juvenile court.
During the ceremony Deputy Ian Fennell was recognized with a certificate of appreciation for outstanding service on behalf of crime victims.
Stanley recalled the events of Jan. 31 and the actions of Fennell to end a high-speed pursuit in Pomeroy. Fennell, using his cruiser, blocked the sidewalk in the area of Farmers Bank on East Main Street as the driver in the pursuit was driving along the sidewalk. With the pursuit taking place in the middle of the afternoon there was a large amount of traffic on the roadway, as well as school buses letting kids off from school, and pedestrians in the area. Fennell stopping the vehicle, taking the impact of the crash himself, brought the pursuit to an end.
Sheriff Keith Wood stated that Fennell, took the message of to “Protect and Save” to heart that day, putting it into action to save many potential victims who may have been hit by the suspect vehicle.
Fennell’s fiancé Katie Cretin accepted the award on his behalf as he was engaged in a traffic stop at the beginning of the ceremony. Fennell made it to the ceremony after the traffic stop concluded.
“Deputy Fennell put his own safety on the line to ensure that no one became a victim during that high-speed pursuit. Deputy Fennell embodies what it means to be a law enforcement officer sworn to protect and serve. If you see Deputy Fennell, thank him for all that he does to keep our community safe,” stated Stanley.
Those in attendance had the opportunity to write messages, thoughts and prayers to crime victims in their families on luminary bags which were placed on the courthouse steps following the ceremony.
The 452 shoes to represent the victims of crime in the county in 2017 will remain around the courthouse throughout the week as a way to remember the impact of crime in the county.
Homicide victims remembered with a moment of silence at the ceremony, as well as a display in front of the courthouse, were as follows: Deborah Ellis, William Underwood, Todd Johnson, Winfield Hardiman, Tommy Parker, Howard Lawrence, Bobbie Butcher, Christopher Roush, Rebecca Ackerman, Keitha Whitlatch, James W. Gardner, Stephanie Ramey, Stephanie English, Jefferey Halley, Jefferey Shannon Halley, Diana Brewer, Ericka Brown, Walter Chaffin, Kenneth Rizer Sr., Doris Jackson, Robert Harrison, Joshua Starcher, Brett Pierce, Dyle Bay, Dale Miller, Brandon Lupardus, Sidney Wise, Christa Nitz and Jesse Carr.
“The colors for this year’s National Crime Victim’s Rights Week are teal, navy, and pink. Wear these colors this week and advise others of the reason you are wearing these colors so that others are made aware of your support of victim rights. Take time this week to reflect upon those among us who have been victims of crime and remember them and their families in your prayers,” stated Stanley on the prosecutor’s office Facebook page Monday.
National Crime Victims’ Right Week continues through the remainder of this week.