April 26, 2023
Each year during the month of April, we recognize National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. Since 1981, it has been a time of reflection to honor survivors and promote victims’ rights and services. The week comes and passes, but the important work remains a constant. The work we do is 24/7, 365 days a year. It doesn’t sleep, it doesn’t care if it is a holiday or a weekend. If there is a new crime victim in our community, we need to do our best to make them feel secure, heard, and supported in what will likely be a long and difficult journey through the legal system. We need to work with our law enforcement partners to identify who committed the crime, make an arrest, and if they are a threat to public safety, keep them behind bars until the case can be resolved.
Lost in the discourse of justice reform are the victims. The victims who need a voice, victims who may never speak again because someone took their life. I think about the victims of domestic violence who are caught in a seemingly endless cycle of abuse, facing a real possibility of a deadly encounter with their abuser. I think about the victims and families who must cope with a life-altering injury caused by someone who was reckless or violent. I reflect on the children who face horrible memories of being abused, perhaps by a relative, and the impact that will have on them for the rest of their lives. The victim that loses their life savings because of a scammer. The list is endless but the meaning is clear: we must lift up victims’ voices and hold the offenders accountable.
Among a number of victim-focused crime bills this legislative session in Annapolis, I strongly supported HB 226/SB 21 which will strengthen the prosecution of child sex abuse by expanding the definition of “Person in Position of Authority” to coaches, counselors, and teachers outside the school system that utilize their position to victimize children. For far too long, adults have used this loophole to groom and abuse kids.
HB 297/SB 292 will ensure that child trafficking victims are not prosecuted for their own victimization and instead refer them to proper services through the Regional Navigator Program. This is common sense legislation that will protect children who are in a situation that is out of their control.
The work of a prosecutor at this time in history is more challenging than ever. Many communities are facing a surge in crime. Trust in law enforcement is declining. Agencies are overloaded, underfunded, and struggling to keep up with the emergence of new technologies. So it is vital that we recognize that each and every day, good women and men are working hard on behalf of our Frederick community. From the first responders to the social workers, to the victim/advocates and prosecutors, these public servants are there to see that the voice of the victim is still heard.
State’s Attorney Charlie Smith