Friday, April 15, 2016

TOP STORY >> Rally supports victims of crime

Leader staff writer

Lonoke County Crime Victims’ Rights Week was recognized on Wednesday with a ceremony at the Lonoke County Courthouse.

Lonoke County Prosecutor Chuck Graham said the event was held to promote victims’ rights, honor victims of crime and to recognize those who advocate on their behalf.

Graham said one of the biggest issues making news around the nation and the state is that there are too many people in jail and nonviolent offenders should be let out.

“How many people have had their house broken into? Do they consider that a nonviolent offense? It is one of the most violent offenses that can happen to a person,” he said.

Lonoke County Circuit Court Judge Barbara Elmore said, “Home is the one place you go in your life where you go to be alone and be safe.”

Graham said, “We need to be talking to our elected officials and tell them, ‘No.’ You can’t let those folk out. They are violent criminals. We can’t keep re-releasing these people because it is cost effective. How do you measure when someone breaks into your house or kills a family member? We’ve got to get these predators away from our kids and the elderly.”

Elmore gave tips on how not to become a victim. She said beware of strangers and contractors who do not do what they say they’ll do. Don’t post on Facebook that you are going on vacation—a home invader might be looking.

She said parents should know all of their children’s passwords when they are in cyberspace.

“We have a lot of children that are marketed. We have cases in this county where mothers have tried to sell their children for drugs for a $1,000. Trafficking is alive and well in Lonoke County. It’s happened here in the last three months,” Elmore said.

Elmore spoke about several agencies in Lonoke County that help victims: The Department of Human Services helps children who are abused and the elderly who are forgotten, neglected and harmed by a family member or caretaker; the Wade Knox Child Advocacy Center, Court Appointed Special Advocates of Lonoke County, Lonoke County Safe Haven, the prosecutor’s office, the Open Arms Shelter, and the Lonoke Exceptional Development Center, which has occupational therapy to help children of parents who have abused drugs or alcohol.

Elmore said if you do not know who to call about abuse, contact DHS or law enforcement. They are the first responders to abusive situations.

“Sometimes it is a shot that rings out that destroys a family, sometimes it is horrendous things that happen to children, and they die. But whatever it is, there is someone here that wants to help you,” she said.

“We have some children that are hurt and some die because parents who are on drugs say there are no victims. These children are the silent victims because a lot of them are dead,” Elmore said.

“If you look behind the closed door we’ve got domestic abuse, battery and assault. We’ve got people fighting in front of kids and the kids have to go to the doctor because they are so shaken up they don’t know what to do. They are screaming and hollering at school. The teachers don’t know what’s wrong with them, because they don’t know their family life. It has to be brought forward. Sometimes it’s children at school telling their teacher and the teacher reporting it,” Elmore said.

There are court orders of protection that law enforcement can get to help make people living there feel safe.

“We can’t hide our head in the sand anymore. I took over January 2011, and we’re getting ready to file our seventh capital murder case since that time. It is getting worse. It ranges from poverty to $400,000 homes,” Graham said.

Elmore said it takes a village of people to take care of one victim in a case.

She said victims are scared when they are involved in the court systems. They have to testify and then there is the parole system for people in jail wanting to get out.

Graham said the Lonoke County Master Gardeners program is working on the courthouse grounds to have some quiet area with benches and rose bushes for families dealing with crimes and trials can get away and have some space.