Crime victims recognized at ceremony

Published 9:28 am Friday, May 3, 2024

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Families joined with local, state and federal officials to remember and raise awareness of crime victims in the Fourth Circuit Court District Saturday at the Selma Amphitheater for a National Crime Victims Week ceremony.

Families of local crime victims set up tents around the amphitheater area decorated with photos, candles and memorabilia of their lost loved ones. Some even created T-shirts with photos of their loved ones.

At one tent, there was a memorial for Cameron Struggs, Corey Hardy, Antonio Greene and Quienten Thomas, who were all killed in incidents ranging from 2016 to 2023.

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Candis Preer, who is one of the families’ members, said events like Saturday are very important for her.

“It’s important to get the word out that violence is not the answer,” she said. “I would never wish this on anyone.”

Tanya McElroy, a loved one of another fallen victim, said it’s comforting to see everyone here. 

“It’s comforting to see all of the families out here,” McElroy said. “It lets you know that you’re not alone. It’s great to see the community out here supporting all of us.”

Kristina Rose, director of the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), was the keynote speaker at the 4th Circuit Victims of Crime Ceremony in Dallas County. She said it is important for those who experience trauma due to crimes to get help, especially for children.

“In communities where violence is so prevalent, there’s a tendency to forget that those who commit the harm are often the same ones who experience harm themselves or suffered trauma as young children or throughout their lives,” Rose said. “And we know that trauma, if unaddressed, can seriously impact the forward trajectory of a child’s life. Ensuring that children impacted by violence and abuse have immediate access to services is critical to their future wellbeing.”

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said more needs to be done to make sure offenders are prosecuted..

“One thing that I recognize is when we gather at events like this, that in some respects it is bittersweet,” Marshall said. “While it is important that we honor the lives of those that surround us at these tables and that are on your shirts, it’s also a reminder of why they’re not here.

“The truth is no one should face violent crime in our country. We should be able to feel safe in our communities in the places that we live. And when violent crime happens, we need to make sure that we hold those offenders accountable.”

Byron Evans representing Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Selma, said presented a resolution acknowledging Crime Victims Week. He said something must be done to prevent the crimes from happening.

“While we find solace in the outpouring of support from friends and family and neighbors in the wake of these tragedies, we must truly ask if we are going to do all we can to be proactive to stop these crimes before they happen,” Evans said. “My colleagues and I must work to pass common sense criminal justice reform to combat the rampant senseless violence in this country. It is our responsibility to provide resources that are necessary to break the cycle and protect the communities.”

District Attorney Robert Turner Jr. said far too often the person charged with the crime gets attention in the media, but victims are forgotten.

“We see a mugshot of the person who was charged with the crime, and oftentimes what we don’t do is our feature stories on the victims,” Turner said. “We don’t get the impact that the crime has had on the victims. And one of the things that we aim to do during the course of our administration, and we hope that other people take our lead in this, is to keep the names of the victims and keep their stories alive, keep their stories in the forefront.”