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Local law enforcement, city staff and Department of Corrections officers acknowledged citizens affected by crime during an awareness ceremony at Mozingo.

The annual ceremony convened Friday during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, April 7-13, honoring those victimized by crime locally and statewide.

The event included a ceremonial tree planting alongside the presentation of the national colors by local veterans as mayor Rachel Martin read a victim’s rights proclamation.

“A new day is dawning for victim justice in the United States, a day that begins with the sunrise of fair treatment, continues with participation and involvement in the justice process, and ends with a sunset of dignity and respect,” Martin read.

Director of the Missouri Department of Corrections Anne Precythe spoke at the event, sharing how crime rates are changing in Missouri, and not for the better.

“In Missouri, the violent crime rate increased 13% between 2010 and 2016,” Precythe said. “More and more people are becoming victims of violent crime.”

Precythe added that a violent crime occurs every 24.6 seconds nationwide, placing an urgency for action among those working for correctional agencies.

“As the leader of the agency that runs Missouri’s prisons and probation and parole system, I can tell you the solution to violent crime is not simply to lock people up,” Precythe said. “Since about 95% of offenders that enter our facilities are released back into Missouri communities, our job is to do everything we can to make sure that they are safe, stable, employed and are good neighbors.”

The proposed Justice Reinvestment Treatment Pilot, House Bill 1355 of 2017, removed limitations and restrictions that made it harder on victims who sought state assistance in accordance with crime-related loss.

After the bill’s passing, Missouri will no longer limit the duration of victims’ compensation payments to just three years or impose a $2,500 cap on counseling expenses.

The bill also removed the requirement for the crime to be reported within 48 hours of its occurrence.

Speaking toward state services efforts, Precythe said the Office of Victim Services, which keeps victims informed about charges and their offender’s custody status, is working hard for those affected by crime in Missouri.

“The office is working to ensure victims have an opportunity to attend and participate in parole hearings for the crimes they were involved in,” Precythe said.

Among 8,000 organizations committed to services for victims nationwide, the Missouri State Department of Public Safety awarded more than $23 million to approximately 8,300 to residents seeking assistance.

Martin says the ceremony is meant to draw local attention to the issue.

“We want people to know they have a voice,” Martin said.

The proclamation read by Martin said nearly 44 million Americans are affected by crime each year.

Of the 44 million, an estimated 10 million are impacted by violent crimes.

Precythe said the state is doing everything they can to ensure better numbers in later years.

“This isn’t easy work we’re doing,” Precythe said. “But if we do it together, we can make Missouri safer.”

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