Officials to raise victim awareness

Michelle Seeber

An informal gathering at Roosevelt County Courthouse at 10 a.m. Monday will bring Roosevelt and Curry County District Attorney Brett Carter, law enforcement officials and crime victims to speak in honor of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week April 18-24.
Leah Schoeffel of the District Attorney’s Office said in addition, a representative from the Eastern New Mexico Police Department and possibly a few victims will speak.
“The mayor of Portales (Orlando Ortega) will read a proclamation declaring the week as National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, and the Hartley House will have a representative there,” she said.
Carter said both the Roosevelt City Council and the Clovis City Commission have issued proclamations about the week.
“Various district attorneys are doing this to bring attention to the fact that we’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year on defendants, whether it’s incarceration in prison, whether it’s counsel,” Carter said. “I think for years the victims have been ignored. We’re trying to get the community as a whole to realize there are victims of crime out there and they have the same or more rights than the defendant.”
Carter said that as district attorney, he seeks to incarcerate perpetrators of violent crimes. Victim advocates work with the victims.
“We also have a Crime Victim’s Reparation Fund where victims of certain crimes can file paperwork through our office to Santa Fe,” he said. “Santa Fe has a fund where in the majority of cases, victims of violent crime are reimbursed for medical, counseling and funeral expenses.
“We want to get out to the public that our victims have rights, too,” Carter said. “For years, it’s always been the defendant who had rights. We want to make sure the victim has a voice in the judicial system.”
Carter said the New Mexico Constitution has provided a few limited rights for victims.
“We’re trying to strengthen those rights, to make it so the victim has the same rights (legally) as the defendant,” he said.
This marks the first time the nationwide week has been proclaimed in Roosevelt and Curry counties, he said.