By Thomas A. Nagy
Part 16 in a Series
They will tell you only the truth; this is how it is.
Two candidates in Clark County seeking the two most powerful positions share a concern for victims of crime, or so say each. Present district attorney Steven Wolfson made it a campaign point to attend a ceremony for victims of crime on September 30, 2014. Addressing a crowd of crime victim families, he expressed his personal commitment to seeing
that victims of crime are treated with consideration and concern.
Wolfson repeated this personal commitment in current campaign advertisements.
Assistant chief of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Joseph “Joe” Lombardo has also raised the issue of victims’ rights as a criterion for his election to Clark County Sheriff. Lombardo told Jon Ralston and audiences of the Ralston Report that victims of property crimes and victims of crimes against persons will be given priority in his administration as County Sheriff, should he be elected.
This is, of course, an easy political position to agree with, treating both categories of crime victims as if they matter to the powers that be, as if “important people” care. These victims do, after all, pay public salaries and vote. Who, running for office, doesn’t want these votes?
But are the words easily spoken actually sincere? Lombardo successfully filled a batch of air time on last week’s
Ralston Report talking about his dedication to and sympathy for victims of crime. Was he sincere? What does his record show?
Early in his campaign to become sheriff, Lombardo called for decentralization of LVMPD responses to crimes against persons. He reasoned that property crimes are investigated by faster-responding teams closer to crime locations, and that this has proven effective in solving those crimes. He recommends decentralization of responses to crimes against persons as an equivalent to demonstrating support for victims of those crimes. While decentralizing response and
investigation teams might improve rates at which some violent crimes are solved, this is not the same thing as providing support needed to victims of these crimes.
Those of us who are in the most need of victim compensation and support are the least likely to receive help from the LVMPD or the district attorney’s office.
Certain things are obvious. If a person is punched in his or her face and suffers physical damages from that assault, immediate medical attention might be given. A trip to a medical facility can be arranged, the victim quickly classified as “needs taken care of” and that’s the end of LVMPD involvement. But that victim has other needs and rights that will not be addressed. These are defined by Nevada Statutes. That victim may or may not have insurance to cover medical
expenses, or loss of work that results from the assault.
The LVMPD has a Victims Services page that excludes important information needed by victims although it does direct users to a number of self-help resources. If you want a list of phone numbers to call to do a telephonic May Pole Dance go here: http://www.lvmpd.com/Sections/
It is unfortunate that District Attorney Steve Wolfson has not already used his present authority to improve the Clark County Victim/Witness Assistance Program while in office. Instead he has made this program an ambiguous campaign promise by asserting that after his election he might revise the program and focus more on assisting victims of crime.
So far, that state authorized program has been used to pay witnesses to testify against defendants in court. Its use has not been fair or consistent. It was never intended to be a means to buy testimony from reluctant witnesses to crimes, whether those persons are first-person victims or third party witnesses. Buying testimony is a very precarious practice that often leads to disastrous results in courts.
Guilty parties can go free due to misuse of a witness compensation program or practice, and this is a common consequence. Emphasis has been on the wrong side of the equation, that of prosecution of accused defendants by the district attorney’s office rather than compassionate support for victims suffering financial and emotional impacts of
Surely, persons who testify against accused criminals should be compensated for financial costs incurred in the process of seeking justice for victims. More importantly, though, people whose lives are temporarily or permanently disrupted by crimes, especially crimes of violence against living beings or murder, need and should have available to them a consistent, workable program to help them through their period of crisis. This is what is intended by NRS 217.010 through NRS 217.270 dealing with victims of crime.
There is a Victims of Crime Program, or VOCP for Clark County that is administered by the district attorney’s office. The Victim/Witness Assistance Center says this, quite ambiguously, about its mission: “To provide compassionate service to victims, witnesses and our community.
VWAC Vision: To deliver Victim/Witness services that help to “personalize” government. To provide our services with integrity and knowledge. To constantly improve.” What it does not say is more important: that the state program allows for compensation to victims for medical bills, psychological counseling, lost wages, funeral and burial expenses that would otherwise not be reimbursed from other sources such as insurance proceeds.
So what exactly does Mr. Wolfson mean when he says that he is an advocate for compassionate support of victims of property and personal crimes? Why wait until an election comes and goes to speak about his commitment to victims? He has had an opportunity to provide a track record for allowable direct assistance to victims in need. Will we see
anything from his office that demonstrates his commitment to help victims before this imminent election?
As for Mr. Lombardo, his campaign commitment to help victims is a curiosity. Has he accrued a track record of helping victims of crime throughout his twenty-six years at the LVMPD? Is there something that he can point to other than a promise to decentralize homicide investigations that gives the voting populace of Clark County confidence that the LVMPD will change its historic policy of treating victims of crime with extreme indifference? We would all welcome such hard evidence of change. All that we have to go on so far is the decades-long record of not prosecuting “high profile” cases like the Jason Turner-Shenker murder for lack of a complete investigation despite abundant evidence. In this case the surviving victim has been treated as a nuisance that members of the LVMPD and district attorney’s office wanted to “go away.”
Thomas A. Nagy is the author of Cannabis Consumer Handbook available at Amazon.com, and the blog ReGeneration at blogspot.com. Email direct at: firstname.lastname@example.org.