By Joshua Winata
Killeen Daily Herald
COPPERAS COVE – When it comes to protecting crime victims' rights in the complicated bureaucracy of the Texas legal system, having the right information can be the best defense.
At the Justice for Victims, Justice For All Conference on Tuesday, rights advocates got the resources they needed to stand up for those who have been the victims of violent crime.
The conference – provided free of charge for law enforcement, victim advocates, social workers and medical and mental health professionals – was added to the schedule of events for Crimes Victims' Rights Week in Coryell County for the first time this year.
Through eight hourlong workshops, participants were repeatedly reminded of crime victims' rights listed in the Texas Constitution: the right to notification of court dates and the right to be present at all proceedings related to the offense, the right to restitution and the right to information about the conviction, among a host of other legal protections.
While they seem straightforward enough, applying those rights to the range of crime victims' needs can be a complicated matter.
Derrelynn Perryman, the victims services coordinator for the Arlington Police Department, walked conference attendees through a crime scenario to illustrate the frustration that many victims endure while navigating the judicial system.
But there is more to crime victims' rights than intervention. Two of the workshops instead focused primarily on prevention.
"It's so important to have organizations dedicated to crime victims' rights, but I think all of our end goal is to not have that be the case, to have the violence stop so there wouldn't have to be advocacy," said Sean Tate of the Texas Council on Family Violence, who led the workshop called Domestic Violence Prevention 101.
In another session led by Bill Davis of the Beaumont Police Department, conference attendees participated in demonstrations on safe ways to wear a purse (with the strap diagonally across the body) or store a wallet (in the pockets, not under your arm) to minimize the risk of theft and listened to a dramatic recording from a 911 dispatcher of a rape in progress.
Coryell County Crime Victims' Coordinator Amy Perkins said the event was "a huge success" with about 35 people from more than seven agencies in attendance.
"There was lots of great information, informative speakers, and everyone had a very positive reaction," she said.
Participants said the conference provided an opportunity for smaller agencies to get the training they need.
"It's more accessible to people who live out here. It's harder to get away to bigger cities where they have bigger conferences," said Lisa Hatfield, crime victims liaison for the Killeen Police Department.
At 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Lea Ledger Auditorium, National Crime Victims' Rights Week will end in Coryell County with a Celebration of Crime Victims' Rights presentation with featured speaker Sandra Love, who will talk about her experience with crime – she saw her family killed by a drunken driver.
The event will conclude with a candlelight vigil dedicated to e victims of violent crimes.
Almost 2,800 pinwheels have also been installed in front of the Copperas Cove City Hall and the Coryell County Courthouse to represent the number of crime victims in the last year who have been served in some way by the county.
Contact Joshua Winata at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7476.