For the past 25 years, Bartow County has observed Crime Victim's Right Week during the second week of April. This year's theme is "Reshaping the future, honoring the past."
Julia Richards, director of the county's Victim-Witness Assistance Unit, said the theme causes everyone to ponder. "It means to never forget the impact of crime and to celebrate the years of progress in establishing victim's rights."
The number of victims the county serves has increased slightly since 2009. Last year, 3,623 victims came through the county's program, but considerably from 2009 when there were 3,200 victims.
Richards said those are just the numbers that were reported, which is part of a larger issue. "There are so many people who don't report crimes."
Part of the reason for not reporting crimes, Richards believes, is a language barrier.
"A lot of people can't communicate so they don't report it," she said.
Currently the Victims-Witness Assistance Unit is searching for someone who is bilingual that can volunteer to assist with the Spanish-speaking victims.
Richards believes that would be a huge help to their department, even if it's only one day a week.
The department serves victims in all areas of crime, including rape, domestic violence, financial card fraud or identity theft victims, children who have been molested, or anyone who has had a crime committed against them or their family.
Richards has been with the county for five years and works with a staff of four and one volunteer. The staff walks victims through the criminal justice process, helping them obtain resources.
"Sometimes people come in and have no idea what to expect," Richards said.
That is especially true for children. If a child is involved, the staff does everything it can to make them feel comfortable. The department building has kid-friendly rooms, and workers give the kids a tour of the courtroom before they are set to testify.
"It's hard enough for an adult to get on the stand, for a child it could be real intimidating and frightening," Richards said.
Last year 288 crimes committed against children or in their presence were reported in Bartow County. Additionally, there were 997 domestic violence, 464 assault, 557 larceny and 214 financial crimes.
Richards said awareness is something that can be done to bring down the number of crimes. Also, enforcing victim's rights laws, and parents and teachers demanding strong anti-bullying laws and policies could further those efforts.
A PowerPoint presentation titled "History of Crime Victims' Rights" is available for viewing on the third floor in the courthouse through Friday. There also is a resource table with pamphlets and literature that address the needs of those affected by crime.
For additional information about National Crime Victims' Rights Week and how to help victims in your community, contact the Bartow County Victim-Witness Assistance Unit at 770-387-5106 or visit www.bartowga.org/vwap.